Hops are the dried female flower clusters of the hop plant. They are added to beer to improve its flavor and to help preserve it. Hops are loaded with vitamins and minerals and they are one of the most expensive ingredients added to beer. This particular ingredient is a necessity because the herbs help to balance out the sweetness and bitterness in the malt of beer. Hops are also used in herbal medicine to enhance breast milk quality and production.
The nutritional value in hops is significant. Nutrients such as vitamin B6 help to calm the nervous system and improve circulation. There is a small amount of nutrition left when hops are processed and added to beer, but to get the most dramatic effects on your health, you must eat them raw.
Another name for hops is Humulus lupulus. The nutrient content varies depending on the area where the hops are grown. Land that is fertile and rich produces hops that are more nutrient dense, while land that is over used for the production of hops may produce hops that have a slightly lower nutritional value. The Humulus lupulus plant produces two main types of hops which are carefully harvested and used for different purposes. The plant produces aroma hops which are used for some beers, herbal products, or as a cooking ingredient. The plant also produces bitter hops which are also used for some beers to add a bitter distinct flavor.
Hops contain several different essential oils such as myrcene, humulene, caryophyllene, and farnesene. Essential oils contain oxygen, which is beneficial for the cell renewal process. Essential oils also have antiseptic and antifungal properties, and they contain trace amounts of certain vitamins such as vitamin E and C, and vitamin B6. The essential oils in hops give them their mild fragrance.
The vitamins found in hops fight free radical damage. Free radicals are created from our environment, and from lifestyle factors like smoking, stress and a poor diet. A free radical is an unpaired molecule that tries to find a pair. While this molecule is trying to find a pair it can cause damage to other cells, causing a person to age faster and feel more tired. According to scientists at Oregon State University, hops help to neutralize free radicals through a flavonoid called falconoid.
All hops contain phytoestrogens. These nutrients are hormone like chemicals found in plants. Hops have a hormonal effect on the body which is why they are able to influence breast milk production. According to Dr. Linda Page, author of "Healthy Healing," phytoestrogens play a vital role in regulating hormones. Phytoestrogens are also loaded with antioxidants such as vitamins E, A, C, phenolic acid, carotenoids, and amino acids.
You can buy hops from health food stores. The taste is bitter, so you may want to consider drowning them with olive oil or grade seed oil and then sprinkle them on food. The oils will mask some of the bitter taste. You can eat them raw, but they are not always easy to take down. In addition, you can add a scoop of hops to your favorite green smoothie. Some people add agave nectar or raw honey to smoothies to add flavor.
Some people have misconceptions about the nutritional value of hops because it is a common ingredient added to beer, which is not noted for its healthy content. However, hops are a healthy addition to alcohol, and when hops are consumed by themselves they offer the most health benefits.