|26 Aug 2005 @ 21:19, by Raymond Powers|
Health Benefits of Hemp Foods
NewsTarget.com printable article
August 23, 2005
By Mike Adams
Interview with Ruth Shamai of Ruth's Hemp Foods
Mike: I'm here with Ruth Shamai of Ruth's Hemp Foods. The company's web
address is ruthshempfoods.com. Ruth, you have a line of hemp-based products.
Could you give people an overview of your product line, and then we'll get
into more of the history of your company and your experience?
Shamai: Absolutely. First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to
conduct the interview. I'm happy to speak with you.
Mike: My pleasure.
Shamai: Hemp has been eaten for thousands of years in different parts of the
world. It's the seed that we eat, and it's beneficial in terms of protein
and essential fatty acids. People in Persia used to eat it, and they still
do, actually. I know Iranians who grew up eating toasted hemp seeds. There's
evidence that goes back thousands of years that it was being eaten in China
and in different places around the world for those health benefits. Hemp has
kind of had a renaissance starting in the early 90s. I was part of the lobby
that helped to legalize or re-legalize hemp in Canada, which we accomplished
in '98 for commercial growth. Since then, I have been producing a line of
hemp foods to spread the news and the nourishment of hemp.
Mike: Can you talk about the basic macronutrient composition of hemp seeds?
Shamai: In the broadest strokes, you can basically divide it roughly into
three components. There are essential fatty acids in the oil -- omega-6,
omega-3, omega-9 -- and also minor fatty acids like gamma linolenic acid and
stearidonic acid. So that's one-third of its composition. Another one-third
consists mostly of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. And it's also
Mike: So it has a very balanced nutritional make-up, I would say. Would you
Mike: For the carbs, you said it's mostly fiber and the rest are just going
to be complex carbohydrates, correct?
Shamai: Yes. There's virtually no starch, so there's only a little sugar.
Mike: For what kinds of products are these hemp seeds now being used in the
foods and supplements industries?
Shamai: Well, there are some oils on the market -- hemp oil, crushed from
the hemp seed. Again, that has the same ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 -- which
it's most known for -- as well as the other omegas that I described, and we
can talk more about that. So there are oils. People also take the entire
seed and shell it -- that is, take the shell off the inside and you then
just have the soft interior. So you're removing a lot of the carbs and
leaving primarily protein and oil. Then you can make protein powders from
them by removing the oil and milling the rest into something like a flour,
then sifting it to remove more of the carbs so that you're left with a
higher protein fraction. I make all of those products and I make them
certified-organic. In addition to that, I incorporate hemp seeds into more
commonly used foods, like energy bars and salad dressings. I used to make
Mike: Oh, really?
Shamai: Yes, and I think I might start to make tortilla chips again due to
popular demand. I actually discontinued them almost two years ago, but even
today someone from a large chain in Canada came to me and asked, "Why can't
we get your chips anymore?" And I hear this all the time!
Mike: It's good to have demand for the product.
Shamai: It is, it is. I can really honestly say, "By popular demand." I love
Mike: Let's talk about your hemp protein powder product line. You have
protein powder by itself, you have it with sprouted flax, and you also have
it with sprouted flax and maca. Which of these is the most popular variety?
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Shamai: The sprouted flax and maca, for sure. It's the most expensive, and
when I was formulating them, I was thinking that people wouldn't know what
maca is, and it's costly, and who knows -- but people love it. I have an
Olympic endorsement for that product from an Olympic runner. I have this one
diabetic man who emails me virtually every day to tell me how much he loves
it. Last night the email said "I really want you to know that you can give
me a lifetime supply of this." He didn't tell me how old he is (laughs).
Mike: It's interesting to me -- why would people want maca with a hemp
protein powder? What's the synergy there?
Shamai: Well, you're taking all of those things -- the hemp, sprouted flax
and maca -- for very different reasons, right? So you're taking the protein
for endurance, stamina, muscle building and all of those things. You're
taking the sprouted flax for enzymatic activity, omega-3, lignins and fiber.
And you're taking the maca for the phytosterols and minerals. The maca
energy -- we don't exactly know which constituent in maca is responsible for
that -- is for the hormonal balance. But that is the effect: The hormonal
balancing. So you're working with different parts of the body to produce an
Mike: What are the most popular uses your customers are putting these
products to? Are they blending them with protein shakes? How are they using
Shamai: They're using it as a base for protein shakes. I have met people who
are stirring it into yogurt and eating it like that. I know people who bake
with it. You can substitute in any recipe for about 15 percent of flour. So
that would lower the carbs and increase the protein and add fiber in it. So
that's a good thing to do with it as well. But most people use it in a
protein shake. Mike, I've brought you one of them. My beautiful hemp flax
maca. Please note that there are 5000 mg of maca per serving.
Mike: Oh, that's quite a bit of maca.
Shamai: It is. But you know something, I didn't really realize it when I was
formulating. I talked to an herbalist who's worked with maca for 20 years,
and I asked, "What is the right amount for me to put in here?" He talked
about different people, different needs and finally said, "You know, 5000 mg
is a good amount for someone to get in a day."
Mike: Is that right?
Shamai: Yes. He said that's an effective amount. So I thought, "Great," and
I did it. Then afterward, I looked around and saw that people were selling
capsules with 500 mg or 750 mg. Its closest competitor has 2500 mg. So
suddenly I thought, "Wow, I really did it right," although I know a
triathlete who takes 15,000 mg a day.
Mike: Okay, now that's a lot of maca. I thought this was a lot, but that's
Shamai: But he's a triathlete, right? So he needs more.
Mike: Sure. He burns 6,000 calories a day or more.
Shamai: There you go -- three times the amount of the normal diet. He takes
three times the amount.
Mike: Great. Now, let's talk about the bars as well. You have hemp and flax
bars. First, I have to ask you -- what about distribution? Where can people
find these products right now in their local communities?
Shamai: In health food stores. If they don't see them, they can ask for
them. They are in general distribution to health food stores in the Western
United States. In the East it's a little bit harder, although they can
certainly get them. There is distribution to health food stores in the East.
But in the West, they're readily available through the mainstream health
Mike: For those who can't find them locally, can they go to your website?
Shamai: They can. And I supply from the website as well. Of course, I try to
not undermine the retailers and the distributors. So I prefer that. But I
love it when people order on the internet. So feel free.
Mike: What about outside the United States?
Shamai: Well, in Canada it's all over. I'm a Canadian.
Mike: U.K. and Australia?
Shamai: I haven't exported to those countries yet. I do get the occasional
order from there, and I do accept those orders. But in general, I haven't
exported. At this show, I have met a few UK distributors who are interested.
Mike: Good. There's so much of a thirst for knowledge in the U.K. for
nutritional information. We have so many readers in Europe, Australia, New
Zealand and even Southeast Asia and South America. And of course, Canada. So
people can order these internationally if they're willing to pay shipping?
Mike: You have a variety of hemp and flax bars. I see various flavors. Can
you tell me what's not in these bars? The ingredients that people want to
avoid, such as hydrogenated oils? What do you leave out?
Shamai: The entire line is free of genetically modified ingredients. I
always leave out genetically modified ingredients. In some cases, that can
be a little tricky, such as for the chocolate raspberry bar. Those bars are
not organic, and that's a price point decision. I wanted to make the hemp
more accessible to people, and they are more accessible at a lower price
point; therefore, they're not organic. But the chocolate raspberry bar has
organic chocolate, because normal chocolate contains lecithin, which is from
soy. Soy is generally GMO, right? I want to avoid that, so I buy the organic
chocolate for those, even though it's a non-organic blend, to ensure that
there is no genetically modified lecithin used in my bar. So that's one
principle. There are also no hydrogenated or trans fats and no refined
sugar. They're held together either with honey, rice syrup or agave syrup.
Mike: That's wonderful. You use agave; that's nice to hear.
Shamai: What else is not in there? The fruit is unsulfured. It's also a
soy-free line. I believe that you're interested in soy, but I don't want to
have the soy in my products. It's just a nice, clean line.
The politics of hemp
Mike: Can you talk more about the hemp -- your experience with the politics
Shamai: Well, it's really, really different in Canada and the States. I can
tell you that for sure. In Canada it was illegal, and a number of people
said that we should legalize hemp. Some people, such as Joe Strobel and Jeff
Klein, who I know personally, applied for a research license to grow hemp.
That was probably in 1996, I think. It was the first growing license. And
Health Canada said, "What? Hemp?" But they granted the license and then they
started looking at it. More and more people showed them how they could
distinguish between hemp and marijuana. They said, "Okay, that's possible.
There's no harm in doing this. There's a market that might be created, and
it's good for the environment. So let's do it." They made a regime where you
do have to have a license to grow hemp in Canada, but it's actually easier
to get than a driver's license. But they do want to know who's growing it.
Since then, it's been pretty trouble-free. It's grown throughout Canada, and
the amount of acreage increases every year.
Mike: With the hemp plant, you have so many uses for it, right? You have the
seeds for nutritional purposes, then you have the hemp fiber which has all
sorts of uses, correct?
Shamai: In Popular Mechanics in 1938, their cover said, "The Billion Dollar
Plant." There's 25,000 different uses for the hemp plant, and we're at the
very tip of the iceberg.
Mike: So it's only been legal for seven years or so in Canada?
Shamai: That's right.
Mike: Canada is exporting, I assume, probably many tons of hemp products and
fibers to the United States, correct?
Shamai: Not fiber too much. That has other challenges. But seed, for sure. I
would say probably that 80 to 90 percent of the hemp used in the United
States in the body care and health food industry comes from Canada.
Mike: So here's a situation where the United States is sort of "behind the
curve," missing out and almost punishing U.S. farmers by not having this
opportunity to grow a crop that really brings wealth, abundance and
nutrition (see related ebook on nutrition) to the community. But Canada is
jumping on it, thanks to people like you, it seems.
Shamai: Of course, as a Canadian, I'm happy about that (laughs). But there
is a bill, a Private Members bill, I think, in front of your legislature
from assemblyman Leno to legalize hemp growth in California. We'll see how
that fares. Of course, even if that passes, the DEA will still step in and
say, "No, no, no." That's a federal-state kind of fight. So even if it
passes here, it's not a done deal exactly. But it's a first step toward hemp
growing. Truly, we're not that threatened by it in Canada, because I think
the fiber, which I said we're not really exporting much of, would probably
be more of an opportunity in the United States than in Canada. I think the
seed would be less of an opportunity.
Mike: Why is that?
Shamai: Because of the climate. Higher heat will produce more THC. Both
countries want the hemp to remain THC-free.
Mike: So there's a regional effect in terms of just being able to grow the
Shamai: Yes. We have varieties that are very, very low in THC. But we also
have a very strict standard. So you don't need too much of a climatic
variable to push it slightly over. It would still never be a drug. But it
might start to creep up. I think that's possible.
Mike: There's a sense here in the United States -- many would say a false
sense -- that people want to grow marijuana and call it hemp. Or, they think
it's just a hippie movement. But increasingly, I find that scientists,
economists and well-educated, well-spoken people are speaking up on hemp --
people like yourself. Are you seeing this shift toward the more intellectual
or influential people in society backing hemp now?
Shamai: I think that there's always been a contingent. Anyone who's serious
and looks at it can see many reasons to grow hemp. I mean, the farmers need
alternative crops, the soil needs things that can be grown without leaching
so many chemicals into it, and then there's the whole fiber industry, with
cotton being four percent of the world's crop but using 52 percent of the
world's agricultural inputs, right? You want to replace some of that for
your textiles and other things with a crop like hemp.
Mike: I was going to mention the cotton factor here. Does this play heavily
into the politics in the United States?
Shamai: It could. Personally, I believe that one thing -- and this is only
my personal belief -- that plays heavily into the politics in the United
States is the prison industry. The prison industry is, I think, one of the
fastest growing industries in the United States. In Canada, we don't have
urine drug testing, but you do in the States, of course. People who smoke
marijuana like to stand behind the hemp shield and say, "No, I was just
eating hemp products." Right? As an industry, we fight that, and we say,
"No, you weren't." Eating hemp will not trigger a urine drug test, but it
still can raise reasonable doubt. And it can make it harder for courts to
get convictions. That can cripple the prison industry -- maybe not cripple
-- but it could have an effect on it.
Mike: As far as your products being distributed in the U.S. market, you're
not having any regulatory problems or pressures?
Shamai: Not at all. Canada has the strictest THC regulation in the entire
world. Besides complying with those, there are random checks, and there are
checks that we do ourselves on all of our products. We know that they will
never trigger a drug test. That's why, as an industry, we actually work
against people who try to hide behind that when they're arrested for drug
charges. We know that it was not our product that was causing that --
absolutely not. Besides that, there's a voluntary organization within the
hemp industry called "Test Pledge." Test Pledge has conducted third party
studies to set out the levels at which drug tests will be triggered by THC
-- not that you would be high from it, but just that it could still trigger
a very sensitive test. It's similar to how people eating poppy seed bagels
used to be busted for heroin, right? But they raised those levels, so people
are not being busted any more.
Shamai: They haven't done that for hemp. So instead, we've gone the other
way. We've said, "Okay, it might be triggered at this level. Let's take it
down many, many, many notches and say that's the maximum amount of THC you
can have in your product in order to never trigger a drug test at quite a
large amount of consumption."
Mike: I see.
Shamai: This is a voluntary organization. The levels set out in it are many
times less than the Canadian government has set out. My company, Ruth's Hemp
Foods, is Test Pledge compliant; we are a member of that. I know absolutely
that we would never trigger a drug test.
Mike: May I shift gears here and ask about any health concerns that hemp
products address and that have clinical backing or any kind of double blind
Shamai: Unfortunately, we're a pretty young and rather under-funded
industry, so there haven't been hardly any third party studies conducted.
There is actually testing under way now. It's a third party test to
establish the protein-efficiency ratios, with rat feeding studies and all of
those kinds of protocols. All we have now are lab analyses, which is a
little different than a protein efficiency ratio. Everything else is
Mike: There's a universe of information now about the benefits of healthy
oils, and that, of course, benefits you by association.
Shamai: By association. As our own industry, we don't have those [studies
yet.] It'll be published, believe me. We're eager to get it out there.
Oftentimes when the media talks about healthy oils, they'll talk about
omega-3, but they won't talk about hemp.
Mike: It's all flax.
Shamai: Yes, it's all flax and fish oil and stuff like that. So as soon as
those studies come out, we'll be publicizing them because that'll be the
first time we can say, "Now you don't have a reason not to talk about it."
Up until now, you could have said that it was our own fault, that we haven't
conducted those studies. After they come out, however, we'll be able to say,
"Here's the study, now talk about our oil!"
Mike: Wonderful. Ruth, is there anything else you'd like to mention to the
readers of our interview?
Shamai: Well, I think it's a wonderful thing that in our society now so many
people are interested in healthy diets, in shifting away from meat-based
diets and unhealthy things. It's amazing to me how fast that is speeding up.
I read just last week that McDonald's has put apples on their menu instead
of french fries as an option. In doing so, it has overnight become the
largest buyer of fresh apples in the United States.
Mike: Really? I wasn't aware of this either. It just happened?
Shamai: It just happened. I think that's very reflective of the movement of
society as a whole. So for people who want to shift away from a meat-based
diet and incorporate healthier options, hemp is a wonderful vegetarian
alternative. It's also one of the few things that incorporates both the
healthy fats and excellent, high-quality protein. So basically, eat it and
Mike: Is it a complete protein?
Shamai: Yes, it is. It has all the essential amino acids in it.
Mike: Outstanding. Are you sure McDonald's isn't battering and deep frying
the apples or something like that?
Shamai: No, but they do offer a caramel dip with it, I'm told. I haven't
checked this out personally.
Mike: Thank you, Ruth. It's been a real pleasure chatting with you.
Shamai: It's been a pleasure to chat with you as well, and I really
appreciate you taking the time.
Mike: You're quite welcome, and I wish you the best of success with your
Shamai: Thank you