In 2010, I learned about Nutiva and had the pleasure of connecting for an interview with its founder, John Roulac. Since then, for over ten years now, I have been using some of their products as part of my whole-food, plant-based vegan diet. In this article review, I will share with you which of their products I recommend and which I do not and why for optimal health.
Nutiva Hemp Seeds — Recommended
I first learned about hemp seeds in 2008. I was astonished by their potent nutritional qualities and by the hemp plant’s incredible versatility for all kinds of uses, such as textiles, clothing, paper, and construction. When it comes to nutrition, the best and healthiest way to consume hemp is in the form of the whole, unprocessed shelled hemp seed. Isolated hemp seed protein powders and hemp seed oils are not recommended, as they are processed foods, and each has its health downsides. Whole hemp seeds are made up of roughly 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrates of their total calories. They offer a desirable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that is approximately 3 to 1, and the seeds are high in magnesium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus. They are naturally low in sodium and cholesterol-free since they are plant food.
Hemp seeds are cream-colored with some specks of green. The taste of hemp seeds is described as nutty, and generally, they are very pleasant to eat, but they are an acquired taste. I enjoy the seeds greatly when they are made into treats with dried fruits or mixed into salads. However, I do not enjoy them as part of any smoothies, as I find that they change the flavor of the smoothies in undesirable ways. If you are adding hemp seeds to a meal, anywhere from 1 tablespoon to 4 tablespoons can be a typical serving. In general, hemp seeds can be added to any dish that you would like them in, regardless if it is sweet, savory, or spicy as they go pretty well with most foods. For maximum freshness, hemp seeds should be refrigerated.
Nutiva’s Organic Hemp Seeds are certified organic and are also raw (not subjected to any roasting or similar heat processing). They are a product of Canada and are cold-pressed, with the oxygen removed to maintain the maximum freshness of the seed and its delicate omega-3 fatty acids. Every time I used these hemp seeds, the freshness was evident upon opening the bag in how great the seeds smelled. The seeds were also rich in their natural oils, and not dried out, as can happen to old or poor quality seeds. If Nutiva’s Hemp Seeds are convenient for you to get, then I definitely recommend them. Otherwise, choose hemp seeds from whichever brand or supplier you trust, enjoy, and can get hemp seeds from easily.
Nutiva Chia Seeds — Recommended
My experience with chia seeds is very similar to my experience with hemp seeds, as shared above. Like hemp seeds, chia seeds provide outstanding nutrition and health benefits, and their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 1 to 3, which is even better because it is in favor of the omega-3 fatty acids. Even though chia seeds are much harder to chew properly, due to their tiny size, and are ideally eaten in their blended or ground form, their completely neutral flavor makes them an ideal addition to smoothies.
Nutiva’s Chia Seeds are certified organic and also come in a resealable bag, like the hemp seeds. Anytime I used Nutiva’s Chia Seeds, I was always fully satisfied and would definitely recommend them to others if they are easy and convenient for you to get. Otherwise, choose hemp seeds from whichever brand or supplier you trust, enjoy, and can get chia seeds from easily.
Nutiva Coconut Manna — Recommended
Coconut Manna is also known as coconut butter, and it is very different from coconut oil. Coconut butter is a whole food, which is made from pure, dried coconut flesh. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is not a whole food, but a processed food that isolates out the fat of the coconut. Therefore, these two products have very different nutrition profiles and impacts on our health, and they cannot be used interchangeably in cooking or baking.
Out of all of Nutiva’s food products, their coconut manna is by far my favorite product and the one that I have used and relied on the most from them over the years. Nutiva’s Coconut Manna is certified organic and comes in a glass jar. Its flavor is delightful if you enjoy coconuts, as is the rich, smooth, and creamy texture. My primary use for this product and top recommendation is as a hardening ingredient for miMIC cakes. I named these whole food, plant-based vegan cakes, as such because they can mimic a mousse cake, a cheesecake, or an ice cream cake. The coconut manna can also be added to smoothies and or simply spread on healthy bread or crackers.
Nutiva Coconut Oil — Recommended for External Use Only
Coconut oil has risen to a high status in recent decades, despite the fact that it is high in saturated fats, which are strongly associated with heart disease. Its popularity and positive image have become commonplace amongst high-fat diets, like the controversial Keto Diet. It has also become a top choice as a cooking oil because saturated fats are more stable under high heat, compared to mono- and polyunsaturated fats. This means that coconut oil does not become denatured or produce harmful compounds or trans fats during the cooking process, the way olive oil or other oils can. Regardless of how we may choose to use it, the health benefits of coconut oil have been greatly misrepresented and over-inflated by those who have a stake in this oil, as coconut oil is no health food. Coconut oil is not a nutrient-dense food, but rather a calorie-dense food, and contains no fiber, no carbohydrates, no protein, and no vitamins or minerals. Coconut oil and all oils expose us to numerous health risks and are not recommended for optimal health and weight. Instead, I highly recommend it for external use as one of the best natural skincare products to nourish and moisturize the skin, as well as one of the top ingredients for making homemade personal care products, like various balms and soaps.
Nutiva’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is certified organic, unrefined, cold-pressed, and not deodorized or bleached. It is made without the use of harmful chemicals, hexane, or heat. As with all coconut oil, it is solid and white at room temperature and melts at about 76 F. It is a product of the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka. It is also one of the best-priced oils, especially given its quality. All these attributes make it a safe and suitable oil for our skin and personal care use.
Nutiva Hemp Protein Powders — Not Recommended
As already shared in the hemp seed section above, isolated hemp products, such as hemp protein powders are not recommended from any company. First, they are processed foods, not real whole foods, and prone to all kinds of processing and contamination problems. Second, there is no need for protein powders whatsoever! When we eat enough food for our needs, regardless if this food comes from plants only or both plants and animals, we meet and exceed all of our protein needs easily. To top it off, high-protein diets are associated with numerous health risks, and isolated protein products are the most likely to create nutritional imbalances in the body. To learn more about any of this, please refer to the following two resources that I provide Protein in Plant Foods and 8 Plant and Animal Protein Myths. Besides, hemp protein powders typically taste horrible and must be mixed with different flavor agents and additives. This is why they most commonly hide behind flavors like strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. They also mix poorly with water alone and need to be blended well as part of smoothies. Otherwise, a very gritty and powdery product is the result.
The groups that have pushed protein powders the most are the industries that make them and the fitness industries that believe they need to rely on them. These groups have greatly influenced public opinion and conditioned people to think that protein powders are some kind of good, healthy, or essential component of the diet. This is completely false. The best way to get all of the protein we need is from whole natural food. Instead of these processed hemp protein powders, rely instead on the whole hemp seeds themselves, which provide natural and balanced nutrition.
Nutiva’s Hemp Protein Powders are certified organic and have all of the right claims about being naturally-extracted and not including any hexane, gluten, dairy, or lactose. However, unless it is the pure hemp seed powder, all flavored protein powders, like any others, include some added sugars and sweeteners, amongst other isolated or modified ingredients. In the end, as shared above, there is no need to subject ourselves to them or waste our money on them; invest in and eat real food instead.
Nutiva Hemp Seed Oil - Not Recommended
Nutiva’s Organic Hemp Oil is certified organic, cold-pressed, unrefined, and comes in a BPA-free black plastic bottle. It is a product of Canada, and the oil should be refrigerated for optimal freshness. For similar reasons, which apply to the coconut oil above, hemp seed oil is not recommended because it is a processed food that isolates fat unnaturally. Likewise, as just mentioned in the hemp seed protein powder section, the best and healthiest way to consume hemp and benefit from its health and nutrition properties is to eat the whole seed. Eating unnaturally isolated nutrients, whether it be the fat in oil or the protein in the protein powders, is not a healthy thing to do. Also, hemp oil cannot be used to cook with due to its fragile fatty acid composition, which is quickly damaged by heat and creates harmful compounds. Thus, it must be eaten raw, and it is a greenish oil that has a very unpleasant flavor. Therefore, for all these reasons, I definitely do not recommend it.
Nutiva Red Palm Oil - Not Recommended
Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil is certified organic, unrefined, naturally extracted, cold-filtered, non-hydrogenated, and does not contain any hexane or other dangerous chemicals. It is a product of Ecuador, is fair trade certified, and comes in glass jars. Nutiva shares that the palms grow on small organic, family farms in north-west Ecuador, and that they ensure that no deforestation or habitat destruction results from the growing or harvesting process of this oil. Usually, palm oil is an extremely destructive food product that causes immense deforestation and environmental destruction that threatens the lives of numerous animal species. Red palm oil is dark orange in color and has a mild carrot-like flavor. If you must use any palm oil, whether for internal or external use, then Nutiva’s Organic Red Palm Oil would be the way to go. However, the ideal thing to do is not require or use any palm oil whatsoever. Like all oils, it is not recommended for optimal health and weight, and being a tropical oil, like coconut oil, it is high in saturated fat, which increases various health risks even more. Don’t get caught up on the hype of any health or nutrition claims about red palm oil either, which are solely meant to sell the product and make it appear desirable. For the best health and weight, eat real whole food instead.
While I have a lot of respect for companies like Nutiva and feel good about recommending some of their products, it is not possible to do for all of their products. Keep in mind that Nutiva does have many more food products and skincare products available than just the few that I mentioned in this article, with which I have personal experience. However, most of those that were not mentioned are all kinds of other oils, powders, and processed foods, which are not a part of optimally healthy whole food, plant-based eating.
Be diligent, therefore, and use your skills of discernment when making food choices and considering what may or may not be healthy. Remember that as good as any company may seem, their number one goal is to sell products, and thus they have to make their products sound as good as they can. Your job is to see through the marketing to decipher if the product is worthy of being considered “healthy” and will have a place in your diet or not.