Let this sink in for a moment. In only a little over a year after passing the 2018 Farm Bill, the US had issued nearly 20,000 licenses to grow hemp, and firms had committed over 500,000 acres of land to its use.[i] By the end of 2019, the 479% growth in licensed acreage was almost entirely dedicated to targeting only one part of the plant – The aerial leaves and buds used to extract phytocannabinoids for CBD products. While that market appears to have a seemingly endless appeal to consumers, left on the table are tons of hemp stock and seeds that are still grossly undervalued. The fiber from hemp alone has thousands of uses, but perhaps a more significant opportunity exists even deeper within the plant.
Inside every hemp seed is the precious inner core, appropriately called the ‘hemp heart,’ and it is a nutritional powerhouse. Hemp hearts net two intriguing ingredients: a potent plant-based protein and a highly nutritional oil. Hemp oil has tremendous appeal for foods and skincare products due to its powerful makeup of Omega-3 fatty acids and other micronutrients. While most hemp oil comes from pressing whole hemp seeds, the resulting product tends to be dark green with pungent off-notes. Hemp hearts are the lesser-known dehulled center of the hemp seed, and this little detail can make a world of difference to the flavor and appearances of hemp oil when it comes to product development.
Market for hemp heart oil
When it comes to the consumer’s perception of fats and oils, research shows us that favorability falls on oils that consumers believe to be more functional or healthy.[ii] This is an important detail because oils are versatile and can influence a broad range of food products. As brands are continually looking for cost-effective ways to enhance everyday food products and remain aligned with the consumer, highly nutritional oils, like hemp heart oil, are an attractive solution.
Nutritional of hemp heart oil
Unique to hemp heart oil is its makeup of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as Omega-3 and Omega-6, that provide essential fats that your body needs but cannot produce itself. According to the American Heart Association, polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.[iii]
Many consumers know about Omega 3s, but overlook the importance of balancing your Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acid intake. Too much of either can impair how the other functions.[iv] Fortunately, hemp heart oil stands out for delivering an ideal balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids at a ratio of approximately 3:1.[v] Hemp heart oil is also abundant in other micronutrients like vitamin E, minerals, and beta-sitosterol while being void of the eight most common allergens.
Applications for hemp heart oil
Hemp heart oil is a light, straw-colored oil with a mild nutty flavor, similar to pine nuts. The functional Omega 3 fatty acids, with an appealing taste and color, make it ideal for culinary applications like salad dressings, spreads, dips, and baked goods. It is best suited to lower temperature cooking due to the delicate nature and significant Omega 3 content. In skincare, hemp heart oil can add considerable benefits to soaps, salves, lip balms, and moisturizers because Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats that are favorable for specific indicators in skin health.
Hemp hearts vs. Hemp seeds
Hemp hearts are the dehulled white inner parts of the hemp seed. The hemp hearts act as the stored nutrient reserved for sprouting new hemp plants. However, removal of the shell presents a much cleaner ingredient that is white instead of green and is void of the bitter, pungent flavor typically associated with hemp seeds.
Sustainability of hemp
From an agricultural perspective, hemp has a tremendous upside. It can grow ‘like a weed’ in diverse climates and is ready to harvest in as little as 90 days.[vi] Additionally, hemp conditions the soil by soaking up carbon and other impurities while adding nutrients back into the ground.[vii] Hence, there is no surprise that many farmers around the world are taking advantage of hemp’s practical nature as a rotational crop.
Hemp might be needed now more than ever. At the current rate of soil degradation, it will take less than 50 years to deplete the suitable soil to grow the crops needed to feed ourselves.[viii] Therefore, promoting soil conditioning crops, like hemp, is imperative. It may be true that the CBD market is driving the popularity for hemp, though hemp seeds and hemp oil have the opportunity to deliver cost-effective nutrition to everyday food products while utilizing more of the whole hemp plant bringing higher value to this crop.
[i] Whitney, 2019 The Field of Dreams
[ii] Mintel, In Flavour: Flavoured Oils
[iii] American Heart Association, 2020
[iv] Simopoulos AP. Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases
[v] Victory Hemp Foods, Finding Balance in the Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio
[vi] CHTA, Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, Crop Condition for Harvest
[vii] Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, Hemp’s Environmental Impact CHTA
[viii] Regeneration International, Why Regenerative Agriculture?