As the effects of COVID-19 grip our nation, healthy eating has never been more important. Eating a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods is one of the best ways to protect yourself against infection. Plants contain compounds that our body needs to produce its own set of compounds, including enzymes, neurotransmitters, cells etc. These elements keep our body in balance and functioning properly. They are also vital for a well-functioning immune system.
One of the most important sets of nutrients for an optimised immune system are essential fatty acids – particularly omegas-3 and -6. The list of health benefits linked to good fats, particularly omega-3 are far reaching. Scientifically proven benefits include:
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Improved eye, brain and cardiovascular health
- Reduced ADHD symptoms in children
- Reduced symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Fight inflammation and autoimmune disease
- May reduce asthma, liver fat and menstrual pain
- Improved sleep and some skin conditions
- May aid weight loss
Now here’s a curveball! A lot of these conditions are also treatable with medicinal cannabis! There is a common denominator here and that is the body’s Endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a homeostatic regulator – continually working to maintain a state of biological balance. It is in close and constant communication with the immune system. Starting to see a connection here? For more information read my blog The Endocannabinoid System and your health.
Did you know your body can produce its own cannabinoids?
These are the compounds famous to the cannabis plant. When our body doesn’t produce enough of its own cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) the ECS can’t function properly and some of the conditions listed above, plus a range of others, can present themselves. Now here’s the final piece of the puzzle, endocannabinoids are lipid-based neurotransmitters, meaning they are synthesised from fats and carry messages around the body. Not surprisingly, studies have shown you can boost your production of endocannabinoids by increasing your dietary intake of omega-3s and other essential fatty acids.
It is important to note that you need these fats in the right balance. A healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can enhance the activity of the ECS. Endocannabinoids are produced from arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. Having enough arachidonic acid is essential for endocannabinoid production, but having too much may lead to down-regulation of cannabinoid receptors and things will fall out of balance. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to balance the omega-6 fats so the ECS can function properly. These fatty acids are much harder to come by in the diet. An ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the diet is about 3:1, and the typical western diet often has a 10:1 ratio, or even worse!
One of the most well balanced sources of omegas can be found in hemp seed. Hemp seed was legalised for human consumption in Australia in 2017 and is on its way to becoming a pantry staple. A nutritional powerhouse, full of omega-3 and 6, and a complete protein, hemp seeds have about 3300mg of Omega-3 and 8100mg of omega-6 in 3 tbs. The ratio of omega 3 to 6 is almost ideal in hemp seeds. As for protein, hemp seeds are 33% protein and contain all the essential amino acids and nearly all the amino acids.
Whilst hemp seeds are amazing, the best diet is a varied one. Other sources of well-balanced fatty acids include ground flax seeds and flax oil, chia seeds, walnuts, sardines and anchovies, eggs (pasture-fed or omega-3 enriched only).
Hemp Mylk – Diary Free Alternative
Try to include some of these in your diet every day. I recommend making your own hemp mylk as a dairy-free milk alternative (recipe included at the end of this blog!) and using hemp seed oil coupled with Vasse Valley’s award-winning dukkah as a salad dressing.
Phew, that was a lot of information! I guess the bottom line is, fat is an essential part of your diets, so long as it is the right fat and in the right balance. Our body, including our immune system, cannot function properly without enough of these good fats in our diet. In the words of Mother Teressa – ‘To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it’.
Check out my latest blog to learn more about How to support your ECS without using cannabis.
While you’re there, make sure you purchase a bottle of our nutritious hemp seed oil or other hemp seed products and please, stay safe, sanitised and sane during this challenging time.
Make your own hemp mylk!
This is the basic recipe but feel free to get creative with flavours!
¾ cup of raw hemp hearts
4 cups of water
1tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp salt
1 date (optional)
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy. Filter through a fine mesh cloth if required. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Shake before every use. Enjoy!