There is no hallucinatory effect from hemp milk -- it's completely legal -- but the nutritional breakdown of this relatively new product is almost mind-boggling. Hemp milk hit the shelves of health food stores last year as one more selection in a growing category of plant-based milk products that includes milk from soy, rice, oat, almond and hazelnut.
There is no hallucinatory effect from hemp milk -- it's completely legal -- but the nutritional breakdown of this relatively new product is almost mind-boggling.
Hemp milk hit the shelves of health food stores last year as one more selection in a growing category of plant-based milk products that includes milk from soy, rice, oat, almond and hazelnut.
For generations, people were raised with the notion that milk must be dairy, and it must be part of a daily diet. Increasingly, scientists are saying milk from a variety of sources can meet nutritional needs.
On a recent gray spring day, Roger Hutchinson, general manager at Naturally Yours grocery store, spoke in the muffled, congested tone of someone dealing with the season's worst head cold.
Hutchinson said dairy milk tends to exacerbate congestion, so soy is his preferred alternative even when he doesn't have a cold.
Soy milk is the store's No. 1 seller. Naturally Yours started stocking hemp milk several months ago and sales are "reasonable," Hutchinson said.
Christina Volgyesi, president of Living Harvest, which produces hemp milk, said the product was launched in 2007 and nationwide sales are strong.
"It's the fastest growing nondairy beverage on the market," she said, calling hemp a "super food," meaning it has extraordinary nutritional value.
Hemp is in the sunflower seed family. The nut used to produce milk is found inside the seed shell.
Living Harvest buys hemp nuts from Canada because cultivation is illegal in the United States. Industrial hemp is grown legally in 30 countries.
The United States is the only developed country in the world that still bans the cultivation of hemp, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. Nearly a dozen states have passed legislation authorizing research into hemp farming.
Industrial hemp is grown for seed and fiber. It is scientifically different from hemp grown for marijuana.
Volgyesi said there are no allergies to hemp created by enzyme inhibitors as there are with soy, tree nut and dairy milks that tend to cause bloating and gas in some people. For adults, hemp milk provides a complete protein, she said. For children, it is low in lysine, an
essential amino acid.
Hemp milk is a perfect balance of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids, she said.
One cup of hemp milk has 900 milligrams of Omega 3 fatty acid, 2,800 milligrams Omega 6 fatty acid, all 10 essential amino acids, 4 grams of protein and 46 percent of the recommended daily amount of calcium.
"It steams well with a rich creamy quality making a frothier and creamier latte," Volgyesi said.
Dr. Hans Diehl, founder of the Coronary Health Improvement Project, said scientific evidence supporting nutritional advantages of plant-based milk is mounting.
"Children under 1 should not be given dairy milk under any circumstances," he said, noting that more people are switching to plant-based milks, and there is no nutritional downside.
An advantage to switching, he said, is the correlation between dairy milk consumption with prostate and ovarian cancer and with autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease and gastrointestinal problems.
Osteoporosis is more closely linked with animal protein, smoking and salt consumption rather than lack of calcium, Diehl said.
"To improve your diet, eat more vegetables, fruits and beans. Stay away from engineered foods and animal products," he said.
That advice is the basis of Diehl's CHIP program that now has 50,000 graduates throughout the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Dr. Amy Lanou, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and senior nutritionist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said cow's milk is not superior to plant-based milks.
However, she recommended studying the nutritional labels on plant-based milks. Some are high fat, low protein while others are low fat, high protein. Some have added sugar or brown rice sugar. They are fortified at different levels.
For example, Living Harvest hemp milk at Naturally Yours has 46 percent of the recommended daily amount of calcium in one cup, while another brand in the store has 2 percent.
Lanou uses rice milk on her cereal and soy milk in her tea. Plain milks are best for most cooking, but vanilla-flavored milk is good in smoothies and other recipes for sweets.
"Deciding which milk is best depends on your nutritional goals," she said.
For more information, visit the Web site of The Hemp Industries Association at www.thehia.org. Living Harvest's Web site at www.livingharvest.com includes recipes and nutritional analysis. Dr. Hans Diehl's CHIP Web site at www.adventistCHIP.org includes information about CHIP programming.
Clare Howard can be reached at email@example.com.