Maryland: Hemp Milk Breaks Into Health Market
Long known for its strength and durability in products like clothing and paper, hemp might prove to be just as beneficial in another medium: food.
Turns out, hemp is a leading source of protein, especially beneficial for vegetarians and vegans, and contains all 10 essential amino acids. It's high in fiber, and it tastes good, too, if an acquired taste.
Christina Volgyesi, of Portland, Ore., stumbled upon hemp protein powder during a trip home from Canada.
"I really just became amazed," a founding partner of Living Harvest said during a recent phone interview.
Flaxseed oil is often prescribed by nutritionists for people wanting to get more essential fatty acids in their diet, but Margaret Hluch, demo chef at MOrganic Market in Frederick, Md., said hempseed oil is just as good.
"Not everyone can convert flaxseeds into their body," said Lissa Butler, wellness associate at MOM and also an herbal practitioner. "Hemp is easier for us to assimilate. And it tastes better," Hluch added.
Volgyesi and her husband began experimenting with hemp seeds, making their own hemp milk in a blender. They added sweeteners, like agave nectar and honey, until they found a recipe they liked.
Soon after, they became the founding partners of Living Harvest, a company that now offers an array of hemp products, including hemp milk in five flavors (original, unsweetened original, vanilla, unsweetened vanilla and chocolate).
In April, they'll launch their ice cream line.
"I've always been interested in nutrition as a way of life," said Volgyesi, now the vice president of marketing for the company.
Because hemp farming is illegal in the U.S., the company imports its hemp seeds from Canada, where hemp, in general, is more widely accepted.
Volgyesi said the raw nuts, which they sell, taste similar to walnuts and can be sprinkled on salad and put in yogurt or cookies. Hemp protein powder, unique for its high fiber content, unlike whey or soy protein powder, can be used for shakes and smoothies.
She said hemp milk "steams fabulously" and makes a great latte.
"There's a huge trend in unsweetened beverages," Volgyesi said. "People can sweeten to their own preference."
As far as other nondairy milk products, hemp has almost three times the amount of Omega 3s as soy milk and double the amount of Omega 6s, Volgyesi said.
Consumers may also try hemp products because they are allergic to dairy or soy or nuts, eliminating milk, soy milk and almond milk from their list of options. Hemp is not a known allergen.
Hemp milk has a nuttier flavor than soy milk, but it might take some getting used to. Hemp milk is thicker than most soy milks and much thicker than rice milks or rice/soy combinations.
Other hemp products can be found at MOM and at The Common Market in Frederick, including shelled hempseed, hemp protein powder, hempseed butter, hemp bread and hempseed oil.
Amanda Johnson, Wellness manager at MOM, said hemp oil is good for skin, memory and joints.