The cannabis cousin can get you high—on good nutrition, that is.

The cannabis cousin can get you high—on good nutrition, that is.

While once an obscure food confined to hippie enclaves and badgered by constant pot puns, hemp is undeniably surging in popularity. Data from the Hemp Industries Association show that sales of hemp food have grown by about 24 percent in recent years. You can now find sachets of hemp seeds in megamarts, hemp protein in smoothie joints and hemp-infused granola bars in office vending machines. And that’s a good thing considering that the various guises of hemp food offer athletes plenty of nutritional benefits that prove they are worth the hype. Here’s how to take advantage of the high-flying properties of hemp. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

Hemp seeds

Also called hemp hearts, these delicious little nuggets taste like a lovechild of sunflower seeds and pine nuts. But it’s their nutritional résumé that really sets them apart. Most notably, they deliver more muscle-friendly protein than that found in other seeds like flax and sunflower—about 10 grams in a 3-tablespoon serving. Their cornucopia of nutrients also includes laudable amounts of immune-enhancing zinc and energy-boosting iron.

Sneak more in: Salads, yogurt, soups, roasted vegetables and oatmeal will become instantly better with a generous sprinkle of these super seeds.

Hemp oil

Made by squeezing hemp seeds to the point where they release their verdant juice, hemp oil has a not unpleasant vegetal flavor making it a nice alternative to olive oil. Nutritionally, hemp oil delivers an ideal ratio of essential omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that helps fight inflammation in the body, which offers up heart-health benefits and may hasten exercise recovery.

Sneak more in: The delicate fats in hemp oil should not be heated so instead use it in salad dressings, pesto and dips.

Hemp protein powder

Offering up a concentrated source of plant-based protein to support your training, hemp protein powder is made by milling hemp seeds into a powder. Based on production methods, brands will contain various levels of protein and dietary fiber. Since hemp is considered a so-called “complete protein” because it contains all the essential amino acids, it is useful for repairing and building lean body mass in both vegetarians and carnivores.

Sneak more in: Whirl it into your smoothies or try mixing hemp powder into pancake or baked good batter for a protein boost.

Hemp milk

Up-and-coming hemp milk is gleaned by blending hemp seeds with water to produce a dairy-free milk alternative with earthy-nutty flavor. Lovers of almond milk should take note that the hemp variety contains higher amounts of protein and omega fatty acids. Most are also fortified with bone-building calcium. Still, consider opting for versions labeled “unsweetened” to keep your sugar intake in check.

Sneak more in: Use hemp milk to float your cereal in, as a liquid base for post-training smoothies, or mixed with cold-brewed coffee.

High Note: Worried about suffering Taco Bell cravings after a hemp smoothie? Don’t be. Hemp is a different variety of cannabis, so it doesn’t trigger munchies or positive drug tests.

RELATED: DIY Dairy Alternatives

Hemp Products

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro 70
($30, Manitobaharvest.com)
A lofty 20 grams of high-quality protein to show your muscles some love.

Nutiva Hemp Oil
($9, Nutiva.com)
Cold-pressed from organic hemp seeds to maximize the nutritional goodness.

Tempt Hemp Yogurt
($4.59, Livingharvest.com)
For a perfect post-workout treat, top this high-protein cultured delight with some granola. The fruit flavors contain actual fruit.

Navitas Naturals Hemp Seeds
($7, Navitasnaturals.com)
Sourced from organic family farms in Canada, you’ll always want to have a bag of these nutritious nuggets in your pantry.

KIND Strong bars
($1.79, Kindsnacks.com)
Hemp seeds help elevate the protein numbers in these delicious savory bars.

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