The term superfood is losing some of its pizazz from being overused in food marketing and exhausted by the media. The number of new products featuring the glitzy label saw an astounding rise of 202% worldwide from 2011 to 2015. Not surprisingly, Americans are the most obsessed with the superfood craze, claiming the vast majority (30%) of new launches in 2015.
It’s easy for consumers to grow desensitized to a product after bombardment with inflated health claims, especially when there’s uncertainty over what the word actually means. In general, we know superfoods seem exceptionally good for us, but it can be hard to trust whether some are worth the hype or just an expensive gimmick. Inevitably, once a new food crush wears off, it moves down on the shelves and we’re on to the next latest trend. But some deserve to stick around, and this week I’d like to make a case for a truly super food: hemp seeds.
If your first thought is marijuana, you’re not alone. This association actually delayed research on its health benefits and acceptance into the food market. They technically come from the same plant, but hemp seeds have less than 0.3% THC, so don’t get too excited.
These little powerhouses are extremely nutrient dense, containing over 30% fat and 25% complete protein—more than chia and flaxseeds. They are the only seed with the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid, known to promote cardiovascular health. One type of omega-6—gamma linolenic acid (GLA)—is abundant in hemp seeds, and has been proven to fight heart disease by reducing inflammation. Hemp seeds are a particularly good source of the amino acid, arginine, which produces nitric oxide in the body. This helps to dilate vessels and lower blood pressure, decreasing the risk of blood clots.
It’s hard to believe something so tiny could do so much. And these no-bake protein bars are a perfect way to deliver all of this benefit to your body in a convenient, tasty little package. This recipe makes 12 bars, so you’ll be saving on cost, not to mention all of the added sugar in most store-bought bars. They’re best stored in the freezer, making them a perfect salty-sweet treat after a hard workout. The protein, healthy fats and other minerals in hemp seeds will also help with energy and recovery. But my favorite quality- unlike most seeds, they’re soft enough to avoid getting stuck in your teeth.
- 1 ½ cups whole grain oat flour
- ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
- ½ cup hemp seeds, reserve some extra for topping
- ¼ cup pistachio nuts
- ½ cup protein powder (I used Garden of Life Raw organic, unflavored)
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ½ cup agave syrup
- 1 Tb coconut oil
- 2 Tb chocolate chips
- Line an 8 × 8 pan with parchment paper.
- Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl: oat flour, rolled oats, hemp seeds, nuts, protein powder.
- Add peanut butter and agave syrup to bowl, stir well to combine. It may help to use wet
hands to thoroughly mix all of the ingredients. If it seems too dry, you can splash in some almond milk.
- Press mixture onto parchment paper in pan—can use a pastry roller to get it smooth, or the bottom of a glass. Let set in freezer for 10 minutes.
- Melt coconut oil and chocolate chips on stove over low heat, remove from heat once ½ the chips are melted and stir until smooth.
- Remove pan from freezer and slice into bars. Drizzle on melted chocolate and sprinkle with hemp seeds. Return bars to freezer to set.
- Bars can be stored in freezer for about a week.
Ashley Sigmund is Paste’s Recipe for Fitness columnist. She is a Denver-based RDN with ten years in the medical field helping patients and clients improve their health.**