Health

Hemp Milk – A Milk Alternative Packed with Goodness

By Melena Gurganus

There are many reasons people forego dairy milk for plant based milk. Lactose intolerance, vegan diets, and concerns about the environment are just three reasons people are opting for plant based milks. Cows milk is falling out of favour and sales have been in decline since the late 70’s. Around a quarter of Brits now use milk alternatives such as soy milk, oat milk, or hemp milk for cooking, pouring over cereal, or adding to warm drinks. Adding a dairy-free option to your regular diet can improve your health. Below we look at how hemp milk is made and its multiple health benefits.

Why hemp milk stands out from other plant based milks

Hemp milk is available at most supermarkets in the UK. You’ll find it alongside other milk alternatives like almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk. Each of these milk alternatives has different tastes and vitamin content. Hemp milk is made from hemp seed, sometimes referred to as hemp hearts. These hemp hearts are technically classified as nuts, and have a slight nutty flavour. The nutrient content of hemp seeds is remarkably high. They have been found to contain all of the essential amino acids we need, an ideal ratio of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for human health, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, zinc, and interestingly, vitamin B12.

One of the particular health benefits of hemp milk is the vitamin B12 content. This nutrient is essential for keeping our nerve and blood cells healthy.  The most common source of vitamin B12 is from meat and dairy products. It is not a nutrient we are able to produce ourselves so it must be contained in our diet. There are very few plant sources of Vitamin B12, the seaweed purple laver or nori is one good source and hemp seeds are another. Adding hemp milk to a vegan or vegetarian diet is one way to boost vitamin B12 intake and maintain overall health.

Hemp milk has more healthy fats, amino acids and proteins than rice or almond milk, fewer calories than cows milk, and no lactose or gluten. This makes hemp milk one of the best plant based milks for lactose intolerant and gluten intolerant people, as well as vegans and vegetarians.

How hemp milk is made

Hemp milk is essentially a mixture of hemp hearts and water. In some cases, vanilla extract and dates or maple syrup may be added to enhance flavour and sweetness. Hemp milk can be store bought, but homemade hemp milk is easy if you have hemp seeds, water, and a blender.

Store bought hemp milk varieties are made by crushing hemp seeds and adding water. The colour of the hemp milk is naturally white, like cows milk, and after the remnants of seeds have been removed, commercial hemp milk may have thickeners and artificial sweeteners added, as well as being fortified with calcium, B12, and other vitamins or minerals.

To avoid the additives in commercial hemp milk, it can be made at home. Homemade hemp milk is surprisingly easy. Combine one cup of raw hemp seeds with 4 cups of water in your blender until you achieve a smooth texture. The mixture may be strained through a nut milk bag to remove the larger seed particles. However, if you don’t have a nut milk bag, or enjoy a thicker texture, there is no need to strain your blend.

To enhance the flavour of your hemp milk, one vanilla bean pod or ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract can be added to the ingredients. To achieve sweeter flavoured hemp milk, a tablespoon of maple syrup or four dates can be added. Once you have finished blending, pour the milk into a glass container and store in the fridge.

Hemp milk made from hemp seeds, water, and any additions such as maple syrup or dates can be kept for up to five days when refrigerated. It is used in the same way as you would cows milk. If the seed matter separates from the water, simply shake before using. The beauty of homemade hemp milk is that you can experiment with different flavours and create your own tasty, healthy hemp milk to suit your individual palate.

The health benefits of hemp milk

The high nutritional content of hemp seeds makes hemp milk an ideal milk alternative. Used as a dairy free alternative, or in addition to cows milk, hemp milk provides the following health benefits.

Improve heart health

The high levels of essential amino acids found in hemp hearts have been shown to support heart health. One of the amino acids that is particularly beneficial for our hearts is arginine. This acid produces nitric oxide within our bodies and helps us to synthesise enzymes as well as relaxing our blood vessels. This in turn lowers blood pressure and can reduce our risk of associated heart disease.

Support skin health

Essential fatty acids found in hemp seeds – omega 3 and 6 are crucial for the health of our immune system and to support skin health. When taken as part of a healthy diet, these essential fatty acids have been shown to improve our skin’s health, relieve itching and irritation caused by eczema and other skin conditions.

Improve brain health

The same essential fatty acids that are so great for our skin are also beneficial for brain health. These linoleic and stearidonic acids are almost a perfect fit for our nutritional needs and have been shown to support improved cognition, concentration and memory.

Strengthen your immune system

Antioxidants found in hemp milk come in the form of vitamin E, tocopherol and phytol. These compounds are excellent at removing free radicals from our systems and are also thought to have anticancer properties.

A source of protein

It’s not just packed with calcium, hemp milk has high levels of easily digestible protein. Hemp protein is known as a ‘complete protein’. This means that, unlike some other proteins, it contains healthy fats, minerals and all nine essential amino acids. This is one of the reasons that hemp protein has a reputation as a high-quality vegan protein, and its place on health food store shelves is secure.

Reasons to try hemp milk

Plant based milk is lower in fat and has fewer calories than dairy milks. Along with the lower levels of fat and calories, it is higher in nutrients. Hemp milk has a wider range of vitamins and minerals than most other plant based milks. Unlike soy and oat milk, hemp milk is suitable for people with dietary intolerances such as lactose intolerance and gluten allergies.

Because of the lower levels of energy and pollutants required to make hemp milk, it is kinder to the planet than cows milk or other animal milk. On top of all that, hemp milk has a delicious nutty flavour that goes well with cereals and it will not split when added to a cup of tea or coffee like soy milk does. Given the delicious flavour and multiple health benefits that hemp milk delivers, it is well worth adding to your regular diet.

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