As the cold and flu season grips 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.
Fatty acids, specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, play a crucial role in supporting and boosting the immune system. Here’s how they contribute to immune function:
1. Anti-inflammatory effects
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in hemp seed, fish oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They can help regulate the body’s inflammatory response by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. By controlling inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids can prevent chronic inflammation, which can weaken the immune system.
2. Enhanced immune cell function
Fatty acids are essential components of cell membranes, including those of immune cells. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, help improve the fluidity and flexibility of cell membranes, making it easier for immune cells to communicate and interact with one another. This enhanced cell function can lead to a more efficient immune response.
3. Increased production of immune cells
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to stimulate the production of specialized immune cells, such as B cells and T cells. These cells are responsible for recognizing and eliminating pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. By promoting their production, omega-3 fatty acids can enhance the overall immune response.
4. Regulation of immune system signaling
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are precursors to molecules called eicosanoids, which play a critical role in immune system signaling. Eicosanoids help regulate various immune processes, including inflammation, immune cell activation, and the resolution of immune responses. By providing an adequate supply of fatty acids, the body can produce balanced levels of eicosanoids, promoting optimal immune function.
5. Gut health improvement
The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in immune system regulation. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to positively influence the composition and diversity of gut bacteria. A healthy gut microbiota contributes to a well-functioning immune system, as it helps prevent the colonization of harmful pathogens and promotes immune tolerance.
Why choose hemp?
Hemp seed oil contains a favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is around 3:1 or 4:1. This ratio is considered beneficial for overall health, as it helps maintain a balanced inflammatory response in the body.
Hemp seed oil is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant, making it a suitable option for individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
In addition to fatty acids, hemp seed oil also contains other nutrients like vitamin E, minerals, and antioxidants.
Hemp seed oil vs hemp seeds (hearts)
Hemp seed and hemp seed oil both offer nutritional benefits, but they have different nutrient profiles:
- Protein: Hemp seeds are a good source of plant-based protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. They provide approximately 25% protein by weight, making them a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Essential fatty acids: Hemp seeds contain a favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, similar to hemp seed oil. They provide a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, which can be converted to other omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA in the body, although the conversion rate is limited.
- Fiber: Hemp seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which can support digestive health, promote satiety, and help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Minerals: Hemp seeds are a good source of minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. They also provide iron and calcium.
HEMP SEED OIL:
- Fatty acids: Hemp seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids, including omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It typically has a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which is considered beneficial for maintaining a balanced inflammatory response in the body.
- Vitamin E: Hemp seed oil is a good source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
In terms of overall nutrition, hemp seeds offer a broader range of nutrients due to their protein, fiber, and mineral content. Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, is more concentrated in fatty acids, particularly omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Both hemp seeds and hemp seed oil can be valuable additions to a balanced diet. Hemp seeds can be sprinkled on salads, yogurt, or smoothies, while hemp seed oil can be used in salad dressings, dips, or drizzled over cooked dishes. It’s always a good idea to incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet to ensure you’re obtaining a wide range of essential nutrients.
So the verdict is, get immune boosting hemp seed into your diet today!