Bakers Journal

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The Final Proof: December 2013


November 21, 2013
By Jane Dummer RD

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Hemp is high in dietary fibre, omega 3 and 6, as well as protein

Hemp is high in dietary fibre, omega 3 and 6, as well as protein.

Have you ever baked with hemp? Hemp is a fascinating crop, but there still is some confusion and lack of awareness about it. Let’s start by understanding what hemp is, then expand on the Canadian agricultural impact, and identify the potential health benefits and innovative ways the baking industry is using it. 

What is the difference between marijuana and hemp? Both industrial hemp and marijuana are taxonomically classified as cannabis sativa. However, hemp lacks much of the primary stimulating psychoactive ingredient in marijuana known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp is bred to maximize the amount of fibre, seed and/or oil characteristics, whereas marijuana breeding aims to increase the THC (which usually falls between four and 20 per cent). Canadian hemp growers must obtain the appropriate licences from Health Canada and hemp planted in Canada must have less than 0.3 per cent THC.

Kim Shukla, executive director of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance located in Manitoba, shared fascinating information with me about its uses.

“Farmers have been growing hemp in Canada since 1998 [after a half-century absence] with 70 per cent for human consumption and 30 per cent for industrial purposes. In Canada, we are supporting the research of dual-purpose varieties for both food and fibre. Our mandate includes creating awareness among key stakeholders and consumers of the potential benefits [including health] of hemp seed, powder and oil. As a foodstuff, we see a wide variety of end users, from the small artisan baker to commercial supplement businesses.”

When it comes to health potential, perhaps the most unique characteristic of hemp is its fatty acid composition. It contains a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-6 gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. We know that both the brain and eyes rely on specific fatty acids and it is interesting that current research is identifying how much is needed for specific regions of each organ.

Dr. Miyoung Suh, RD, PhD, and associate professor at the University of Manitoba, agrees.

“The high GLA and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in hemp has the potential as an anti-inflammatory in human health. The same fatty acid ratio is demonstrating a positive relationship for eye and brain health in animal models. However, more human research is necessary determine hemp’s specific relationship to our health.”

I’m often sent food, beverage and ingredient samples (a perk of being a dietitian). Recently, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts showed up on my doorstep. Afterwards I contacted Mike Fata, who is the CEO and co-founder of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, for the hemp 411 regarding how everyone from artisan to large commercial baker is using hemp seeds, powder and oil in their sweet and savoury baked goods and breads.

“Consumers are demanding more whole foods that are safe for people with food sensitivities,” says Fata. “Hemp is used in gluten free and specialty baking. The Hemp Hearts [shelled hemp seeds] give a slightly nutty flavour, creamy texture and increase the protein and omega [3 and 6] content of the baked goods. Bakers are adding them to batter and dough for muffins, cookies and breads. Our hemp protein powder is like spelt flour – it is denser than regular wheat flour. It can be used as a partial replacement for wheat flour if you want a punch of protein and dietary fibre. It gives a slightly darker bake. And finally, hemp oil can be used in baking; however, it has a smoke point of 375 F so it is best in low-temperature recipes.”

My last question to him was about the shelf life and he assured me that it is similar or slightly better than that of baked goods made with flax seed as hemp foods contain natural vitamin E.

Finally, I’m leaving you with tips from an artisan baker I met while writing this column. Natalie Dueck (a.k.a. The Manitoba Bread Lady) has been baking with hemp for almost a decade and selling it at the St. Norbert Farmers Market as well as through local businesses. She is renowned for her breads, chocolate wafers and granola, which she makes using mostly hempseed. Dueck’s recommendation for hemp protein powder is to substitute no more that 25 per cent to get a delicious product. She says, “Consumer awareness of the nutritional benefits of hemp has greatly increased over the last five years and this demand has us expanding our business.”


Jane Dummer, RD, is a leading dietitian for the Canadian food and nutrition industry. Jane offers services specializing in agri-food, functional foods and food safety. For more information, visit www.janedummer.com .


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