When people hear the word “hemp,” they tend to think of marijuana. They’re not wrong – it does come from the same plant, the Cannabis sativa, but marijuana comes from the plant’s leaves. Hemp seeds have a very different chemical makeup from the rest of the plant. They contain only trace amounts of the ingredient that gives marijuana its dizzying effect. They are not only safe to eat, but they are one of the world’s most nutritious foods.
What is Hemp Seed?
Hemp seeds are sometimes called hemp hearts. The hemp plant grows hard brown seeds that are the size of popcorn. Inside these seeds are inner kernels that are loaded with nutrients. It is the inside of the seeds that are sold for food.
Hemp seeds are considered a superfood because they are a complete protein. This tiny food source has all the essential fats, enzymes, and vitamins that are important for health. They are an especially good food for people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet because they contain all the essential amino acids. This very unusual for a plant.
Hemp seeds have a pleasant nutty taste that has been called a cross between a pine nut and a sunflower seed. When you blend them into liquids their taste tends to fade out, making them an excellent addition to yogurt or smoothies. It’s easy to add a couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds to almost any food. Hemp seed is also made into a milk alternative and an oil that is good for making salads dressings.
1. Hemp Seeds Are a High Quality Source of Protein and Other Nutrients
No plant is a better source of protein than hemp seeds. They’re also a great source of omega fatty acids, and oil made from hemp seeds has more essential fatty acids than any other nut or seed oil. Hemp seeds provide an amazing number of nutrients in a very small serving. Just one ounce provides:
Calories – 161
Protein – 9.2 grams
Carbohydrates – 3.3 grams
Fat – 12.3 grams
Fiber – 2 grams
Manganese – 2.8 mg (140% of RDV)
Vitamin E – 15.4 mg (77% of RDV)
Magnesium – 300 mg (75% of RDV)
Phosphorus – 405 mg (41% of RDV)
Zinc – 5 mg (34% of RDV)
Iron – 3.9 mg (22% of RDV)
Copper – 0.1 mg (7% of RDV)
The uncommon mix of protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals in hemp seeds make them one of the world’s healthiest foods. They also provide a valuable source of protein for people who are sensitive to gluten, nuts and eggs.
2. Hemp Seeds Are a Heart Healthy Food
There are several nutrients in hemp seeds that help protect against heart disease, but the two most important are an amino acid called arginine and another called gamma-linolenic acid.
When your consume arginine, it makes a gas called nitric oxide that enters your blood and relaxes your blood vessels. This has the effect of lowering your blood pressure, and that puts a lot less pressure on your heart. Arginine has also been linked to lower levels of a protein that causes inflammation in the heart. Gamma-linolenic acid has also been shown to decrease inflammation that is linked to heart disease.
In addition to these important amino acids, hemp seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats, both of which have been proven to improve cardiovascular health and lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise your levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
Bottom Line: Two tablespoons of hemps sees per day can lower your blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels while increasing your good cholesterol and cutting harmful inflammation.
3. Hemp Seeds Help Nourish Your Hair, Skin and Nails
If you struggle with dry flaky skin or hair and nails that split and break easily, it may be caused by inflammation. The oil that is found in hemp seeds not only eases inflammation, but also contains antioxidants that encourage healthy cell growth and turnover.
Many popular beauty products contain hemp seed oil topically because the Vitamin A and E in the seeds soften and moisturizes the skin, improving its elasticity.
People who struggle with varicose veins can benefit from hemp seeds blood thinning abilities, and the gamma-linolenic acid can help control hormone levels, helping skin by stopping acne before it starts.
Bottom Line: Whether you use hemp seed oil topically to moisturize and clean your face or eat hemp seeds for the nutrients that they contain, they will beautify and improve your skin.
4. The Fiber in Hemp Seeds Improves Your Gut Health and Your Overall Health.
Whole hemp seeds are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Most people don’t take in as much fiber as they should, and this can result in feeling sluggish and bloated. People who don’t take in enough fiber are often constipated, and are at increased risk for colon cancer. The fiber in hemp seeds effectively cleans out your digestive tract. One study showed that a dose of 7.5 grams of hemp seeds was very effective at relieving constipation. At the same time, the fiber in hemp seed lowers your risk of heart disease by lowering your bad cholesterol levels and your blood pressure. Eating plenty of fiber also can help you achieve your weight loss goals by keeping you feeling full.
Bottom Line: Hemp seeds provides the roughage you need to keep your digestive tract moving.
5. Hemp Seeds Can Help You Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals
When you add a couple of tablespoons of hemp seed to your oatmeal, your yogurt, or any other food you’re eating, you give it more than just another layer of flavor. Just a small amount of hemp seeds will give whatever you’ve eaten much more staying power. You’ll find you are able to go much longer before you start to feel hungry again.
Hemp seeds ability to keep you feeling full is partially because of its high fiber content and partially because of the high amount of protein and healthy fats that they contain.
Bottom Line: If you want to lose weight, add hemp seeds to your food. They will give you many of the nutrients you need when you’re cutting calories while helping keep hunger at bay.
What You Need to Know About Buying and Using Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds should be sold in containers or bags that are both airtight and that are completely opaque. Even a window to allow you to see the seeds would allow light in. The oil in the seeds can go rancid if they are not stored properly, so you want to keep them away from light and heat. You should also check to see if there is a “packed on” on “best before” date to ensure that you buy fresh seeds.
Once you get them home, put them into an airtight container and either freeze them or put them in the refrigerator. Kept that way they will last for about a year. If stored at room temperature, hemp seeds will go bad in about 4 months. A quick sniff will tell you if they’ve turned.