Here in Connecticut, the first days of spring have meant a return to freezing temperatures, replete with dashes of snow and sleet. To warm up from the inside out, I’ve been making this Hearty Hemp Hearts Porridge that may tantalize your taste buds, while also helping to better your health. This warm, grain-free porridge is packed with fiber, disease-fighting antioxidants, healthy fats and essential fatty acids and is a nutrient-dense way to fill the belly and energize you for the day.
Hemp Hearts For Your Health
Our first ‘superfood’ ingredient is hemp hearts. Hemp hearts, or shelled hemp seeds, are considered a complete protein source, as they provide all nine essential amino acids that the body needs to function optimally. When the hull of the hemp seed is removed, it increases the protein density (10 g in just 2 tablespoons) and essential fatty acids, while lowering the carbohydrate content, according to Nutrition Secrets. Hemp seeds contain a significant amount of high-quality protein, more than chia seeds and flax seeds, helping to provide last energy, as well as to increase energy levels. Along with considerable amounts of dietary fiber, the high protein profile of hemp hearts is also great for curbing hunger.
The balance of essential amino acids to essential fatty acids found in hemp hearts is thought to aid cellular recovery and development. On LIVESTRONG.COM, linical herbalist Larken Bunce says, “Hemp’s unique fatty acid composition and balance can have significant impact on inflammatory processes and cell membrane activities, which are the foundation of numerous chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative disorders, hypersensitivities and auto-immune conditions.”
Hemp seeds may help reduce the risk of heart disease as they are especially high in arginine, an amino acid that helps produce nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate and relax, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease, according to Alternet. Increased arginine consumption is also linked to decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRO), an inflammatory marker linked with heart disease.
Altneret also cites that gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in hemp seeds may help reduce PMS symptoms. GLA produces prostaglandin E1, which reduces the effects of the hormone prolactin—decreasing common PMS symptoms, like breast pain and tenderness, fluid retention and irritability. GLA may also aid in regulating the hormonal imbalances and inflammation of menopause.
Hemp hearts are also a rich source of the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA), and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). Hemp hearts have an optimal 3:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. A proper ratio of Omega-6 to Omega 3 is critical to maintaining optimal health. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet is overabundant in Omega-6 fatty acids and sorely lacking in Omega-3s. The SAD (Standard American Diet) of processed foods and oils with excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have led to Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios of approximately 16:1. A higher ratio produces dangerous health effects on the body, including excess inflammation. Chronic, excess inflammation is considered one of the leaded causes of the most common, serious diseases of the day, including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and many forms of cancer. Studies found that when a 4:1 ratio is established, the mortality risk of cardiovascular disease decreased by 70 percent; a 2.5:1 ratio decreased cancer cell proliferation in breast cancer, and a 2-3: 1 ratio reduced inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.
Fend Off Inflammation With Flax Seeds
Due to their high omega fatty acids profile, consumption of hemp hearts and flaxseed promote a lower ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. High in ALA, they help to reduce blood pressure, regulate blood cholesterol, decrease arterial inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack and chronic kidney disease. ALA has also been found in studies to limit the growth of cancerous cells in both the breast and cervix without harming healthy cells.
Flax seed contains more ALA than any other plant food. Numerous studies have shown that consumption of flaxseeds increases levels of ALA in our blood, as well as amounts of two other omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. ALA must converted into EPA and DHA before the body can use it. ALA, with the help of EPA and DJA, has the capacity to help protect blood vessels from the damage of inflammation. Another component of flaxseeds, called lignans, also provides blood vessel protection.
Flaxseeds are also the greatest source of lignans in the human diet, having as much as seven times the amount of the runner-up, sesame seeds. Lignans are fiber-like plant compounds whose structures as polyphenols allow them to provide antioxidant protection. A polyphenol is a type of antioxidant that protects cells from free radicals, which contribute to tissue damage in the body. While we tend to look to fruits and veggies, like blueberries and olives, as the ideal source of antioxidants, flaxseeds contain significantly more polyphenol antioxidants, which are associated with decreased insulin resistance and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Charged Up With Chi
Chia seeds are another popular “superfood” associated with increased energy, improved digestion, more stable blood sugar and better skin tone. Like hemp seeds, they contain all the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source. Chia seeds are also an abundance source of ALA. Studies show that consumption of chia seeds raise levels of both ALA and EPA in the blood; however they don’t supply the critical DHA.
High in phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity, chia seeds were shown to inhibit 68.8 percent free radical activity in a 2014 study. Free radicals can damage molecules in cells, contributing to disease and aging.
Chia is a rich source of calcium, containing 18 percent of the recommended daily amount per ounce, It also is high in manganese, a powerful antioxidant that is essential for healthy bones, absorption of calcium, proper brain and nerve function, metabolic function and the of regulation blood sugar. Chia also is rich in phosphorous, which is crucial in the formation of bones and teeth and helps the body utilize carbohydrates and fats, to synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and maintenance; it is also vital for the production of ATP, which the body uses to store energy.
High in both soluble and insoluble fiber, chia helps to balance insulin, promote healthy bowel activity, slow digestion, clear the intestinal tract and make one feel fuller faster. While the chia seed has 12 grams of carbohydrates in one ounce (or two tablespoons), 11 grams are fiber, which the body does not digest. Thus, with 1 net carb per ounce, chia is an excellent low-carb food.
As it can absorb up 10 to 12 times its own weight in water, the chia seed expands in the stomach when consumed, helping to curb hunger and suppress appetite, making it helpful for weight loss. There in the stomach, consumed chia seeds form a gelatin-like substance that can act as a prebiotic to support the growth of probiotics in the gut.
The chia seed also has a significant amount of zinc, which aids the body in producing more leptin. Leptin is an instrumental hormone for the regulation of appetite, energy expenditure and energy level regulation, improving stamina and endurance. High in protein, it is also helpful for building lean muscle mass and for weight loss. Chia’s absorptive nature also helps to maintain hydration and improve the nutrient absorption of electrolytes, according to Dr. Axe. This may all help to explain why the chia seed is considered “runners food,” used by Aztec warriors for long-distance runs and endurance.
Cut Cholesterol With Coconut Milk
Lastly, coconut milk is an excellent alternative to dairy, for those with allergies or intolerances to lactose, casein or whey. Look for unsweetened, full-fat, organic coconut milk to enjoy its full health benefits. If you must purchase it from a can, make sure it’s BPA-free to avoid the negative health effects of exposure to this toxic chemical.
Full-fat coconut milk is a great source of lauric acid—a medium-chain trigylceride (MCT) fatty acid that is easily absorbed and used by the brain for energy. MCT fatty acids in coconut milk help to burn fat, to provide satiety that combats overeating, and to increase the body’s energy expenditure, improving physical performance. Electrolytes, like magnesium and potassium, in coconut milk also help to repair muscle tissue that is broken down during exercise.
Coconut fat also helps to lower LDL (lousy) cholesterol and raise HDL (helpful) cholesterol, lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels limber, elastic and free from accumulating plaque—all of which improve overall cardiovascular health.
Also of note for diabetics, the high fat content of coconut can slow the rate that sugar, in the form of glucose, is released into the blood stream, which helps to regulate insulin levels and prevent sugar spikes.
The electrolytes and healthy fats of coconut milk also nourish the digestive lining, improving gut health and preventing irritation. MCTs may also help reduce inflammation, including of the joints and muscles, which is helpful for those with autoimmune disease. Lauric acid in coconut milk also has antibacterial and antiviral properties, helping to fight and prevent further disease.
Spicing It Up
Finally, nutmeg and cinnamon may seem like simple spices, but they have potent health benefits in larger doses. In nutmeg, manganese aids in blood clotting, regulating blood sugar, metabolizing carbs and absorbing calcium. Copper and manganese contain an antioxidant enzyme that repairs cells and combats oxidative stress. Other components of nutmeg have antifungal properties, aid in fighting oral pathogens, and inhibit gas and intestinal discomfort. It can also help soothe joint and muscular pain, control heart rate and blood pressure, and either soothe or stimulate areas of the brain
Cinnamon contains fiber, calcium, iron and manganese. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, calcium and fiber in cinnamon work together to reduce damage to colon cells. The spice also has anti-clotting and anti-microbial properties. Cinnamon also helps to control blood sugar levels in multiple ways. It slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, preventing a spike in blood sugar after eating. It also improves the effectiveness of cells to respond to insulin in people with Type 2 diabetes, thus normalizing blood sugar levels. Just the scent of cinnamon can help boost brain activity, helping you to start your day off with a bang. Research shows that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing and cinnamon has been shown to improve scores on tasks related to attention, memory and visual-motor speed.
With all the health-boosting ingredients in this Hearty Hemp Hearts Porridge, can you think of a better way to heat up your morning? Plus, it’s super easy and quick to make! So incredibly filling, this meal can easily satiate you until dinnertime.
HEARTY HEMP HEARTS PORRIDGE
(Adapted from the Grain-Free Hemp Heart Porridge by Healthful Pursuits)
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1/2 cup of Hemp Hearts
- 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed
- 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Combine all the above ingredients stirring until fully blended. Cook in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches a slight boil. Stir, then lower the heat to medium. Cook for another 2 minutes (or until it reaches your desired consistency), stirring the porridge occasionally. Remove from heat.
Garnish with 1/4 cup of crushed almonds or walnuts. A handful of mixed berries or cacao nibs also make great toppings.
PUMPKIN HEMP HEARTS PORRIDGE
Pumpkin is a potent, seasonal gourd packed with stomach-filling fiber and immune-boosting components, like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is what gives pumpkins that distinctly orange color; it is converted to vitamin A in the body, playing an important role in eye health. Vitamins C and E also have been demonstrated to decrease the development and progression of cataracts and help to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Canned pumpkin is also rich in vitamin K, which is correlated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Pumpkins are also a great source of inflammation-fighting molecules called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties; cell wall polysaccharides in pumpkins also help to regulate insulin and blood sugar
For a warm, fall-inspired variation, try this pumpkin hemp hearts porridge. Use the same ingredients as above, but also add a half cup of organic pumpkin purée and a 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice. Heat and stir to your desired consistence. I especially recommend garnishing with walnuts for this variation.
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