The Health Benefits of Hemp Hearts
Just like chia and flax seeds, hemp hearts pack a punch of nutrition in just a few tablespoons. Here’s the low-down.
Over the last decade, chia and flax seeds have gone from hipster products hidden in the back of a Whole Foods to beloved pantry staples, all thanks to their portable size, versatility in flavor combos, and nutritional values. And it’s about time hemp hearts got the same kudos.
Derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp hearts are actually just hulled or unshelled hemp seeds, and no, they don’t naturally contain CBD — the compound that can potentially ease anxiety and treat other health concerns — or THC — the chemical responsible for cannabis’ mind-altering effects, per the Food and Drug Administration. While hemp hearts do have an ever-so-slightly nutty taste and creamy texture, that’s not their main draw. “Just like chia seeds or flax seeds, you don’t recommend hemp hearts for the taste — you recommend them for the added nutrition,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N, a dietitian and Shape Brain Trust member. That’s not to say hemp hearts taste bad (some people may enjoy that added bit of nuttiness!), it’s just that their nutritional qualities are probably the primary reason you’ll want to add them to your diet.
In fact, the health benefits of hemp hearts run aplenty. They offer everything from nutrients that support bone and heart health and essential minerals for plant-based eaters, to muscle-building macronutrients. And luckily, there’s an abundance of creative ways to add them to your diet too. “Any way you’d use chia seeds or flax seeds, you can use hemp hearts,” says Gans. “Add them to your smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or salads.” You can even incorporate them into homemade cookies, muffins, bread, granola, and energy balls for a punch of nutrients.
If this quick rundown didn’t quite convince you to swap your chia seeds for hemp hearts, read up on all the benefits of these little seeds below.
They’re loaded with protein.
Hemp hearts may be small, but they sure are mighty. Three tablespoons of the hearts contain a whopping 9.5 grams of protein — three grams more than a single egg and nearly double that of chia seeds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. In case you forgot everything from high school health class, protein helps support your immune cells, hair, skin, and importantly, muscles. Following a round of exercise, your body uses protein to repair damaged muscle fibers, which helps them become even stronger. Unsurprisingly, if you don’t get enough of it through your diet, you could suffer from muscle loss, weak hair and nails, or immune issues.
For the average woman following a 2,000 calorie diet, the USDA recommends scoring 46 grams of protein a day. Do a little math wizardry, and that means one serving of hemp hearts offers nearly 20 percent of your daily need. Admittedly, a three-tablespoon serving is a lot, so you might eat only half a serving — and thus get half the protein — in one sitting. But every little bit adds up, so add as many as you’d like to your post-workout smoothie, and you’ll be on your way to achieving those #gains.
They boast omega-3 fatty acids.
While fresh fish and seafood are typically the go-to sources for omega-3 fatty acids, hemp hearts deserve to be on the favorites list, as well. In just three tablespoons of hemp hearts, you’ll get more than double the daily recommended amount of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 that your body can’t produce on its own — meaning they need to be obtained from your diet, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce levels of triglycerides (a type of fat linked with increased risk of heart disease), curb the buildup of plaque in your arteries (which can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke), and slightly lower blood pressure, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Related: Vegetarian Foods That Offer a Healthy Dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
They support good bone health.
Though it’s not the most glamorous benefit of hemp hearts, it is one of the biggest. Just three tablespoons of hemp hearts provide 210 milligrams of magnesium and 495 milligrams of phosphorus, which breaks down to a whopping 68 percent and 70 percent of your recommended daily allowances, respectively, for each of those nutrients.
ICYDK, “magnesium can help in the whole bone equation,” says Gans. “We always talk about calcium and vitamin D, but magnesium also plays a role in keeping our bones strong.” In fact, research has found that people who consume more magnesium have higher bone mineral density, which is essential in reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis (a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle.)
Likewise, the primary function of phosphorus in the body is to help build and maintain your bones and teeth, according to the NLM. Along with calcium, this essential nutrient forms the tiny crystals that give bones their rigidity, and when dietary intakes of phosphorous are lacking for a prolonged period, bones can actually weaken, per the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
They supplement nutrients for plant-based eaters.
Listen up, vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, and any other all or mostly all plant-based eaters. Three tablespoons of hemp hearts contain 13 percent of the recommended daily allowance for iron, a mineral that’s used to make proteins in red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body and to muscles. Without enough of it, less oxygen is moved throughout the body, which can cause gastrointestinal upset, weakness, tiredness, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating, per the NIH. Not exactly a pleasant situation to be in.
Along with pregnant women and young children, plant-based eaters are at a greater risk than most humans for iron deficiency, says Gans. That’s because the iron in food comes in two forms, heme iron (found only in meats and seafood) and non-heme iron (found in plant foods, iron-fortified products, meats, and seafood). Since the body doesn’t absorb non-heme iron as well as heme iron, plant-based eaters need to consume nearly twice as much iron to get their fill, per the NIH. And luckily, these crunchy hemp hearts can help herbivores easily amp up their iron intake, says Gans.
They help your body convert food to energy.
You can thank the tiny seed’s thiamine and manganese content for this hemp heart benefit. Also known as vitamin B1, thiamine helps your body break down carbohydrates so they can be used as energy, explains Gans. It’s also essential for the growth, development, and function of the cells in your body, according to the NIH. Without enough of the nutrient, you can start to experience weight loss, reduced appetite, confusion, memory problems, muscle weakness, and heart problems, reports the NIH. But not to worry, you can snag 35 percent of your recommended daily allowance in just three tablespoons of hemp hearts. (Related: Why B Vitamins Are the Secret to More Energy)
What’s more, a three-tablespoon serving of hemp hearts boasts nearly 130 percent (!)) of the recommended daily allowance of manganese, a mineral that helps break down the starches and sugar you eat and process cholesterol, carbohydrates, and protein, per the NLM. The nutrient also helps support strong bones, blood clotting, and a healthy immune system. It’s the bundle of nutrients you never knew you needed.
Wondering exactly what hemp hearts are? Here, the answer to what are hemp hearts, plus all the hemp hearts benefits and hemp heart nutrition facts.
Hemp: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses
In this Article
In this Article
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- Health Benefits
- Amounts and Dosage
Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, can be seen by some people as a controversial plant, but it doesn’t need to be.
The hemp plant is a variety of Cannabis sativa that has been cultivated for its fiber, not any psychoactive effects. Many strains of hemp have none of the mental effects associated with cannabis. This type of industrial hemp has been used as a fiber source, for oil, and as an important source of nutrition for thousands of years.
When it comes to nutrition, hemp seeds are the most important part of the plant. The seeds can be eaten whole or without the hull. They can also be turned into milk that’s similar to soy milk. Hemp seed oil can be used as a cooking oil in the same way as olive oil. There are even hemp seed supplements available in case you want to enjoy some of the impressive health benefits of hemp in your diet.
The vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in hemp seeds can provide some significant health benefits. For example, hemp oil is rich in vitamin E, which is useful for helping keep your immune system functioning. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping reduce free radicals that can cause cell damage in your body.
In addition, true hemp may provide health benefits like:
Getting enough healthy fats in your diet is important for keeping your heart and cardiovascular system healthy. Hemp seeds are particularly rich in these healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fats are known for improving heart health by reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Adding hemp oil to your diet may reduce your risk of heart problems in the future.
Reduced Symptoms of PMS
Hemp oil is also rich in gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which has been linked to reduced symptoms of PMS. It appears that GLA reduces the effect of the hormone prolactin on the body. Prolactin is often identified as a major cause of the negative symptoms of PMS, especially breast tenderness, irritability, bloating, and depression. Hemp seed oil could be an important tool to help relieve these unpleasant symptoms.
Fiber is critical for a healthy digestive system, and whole hemp seeds are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps add bulk to your stool and may be linked to a lower risk of bowel cancer. Meanwhile, soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic and feeds the “good” bacteria that live in your intestines.
In combination, soluble and insoluble fiber from hemp seeds help keep your digestive system running smoothly and prevent a number of common conditions such as constipation, ulcers, and hemorrhoids.
The combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in hemp is good for more than just your heart. Early studies suggest that adding hemp seed oil to your diet may help relieve symptoms of eczema. It appears the oil in hemp seeds helps balance the lipids in your blood, reducing skin dryness and itchiness. While more studies need to be done, substituting hemp seed oil for other types of oil in your diet could be a safe and easy way to reduce skin irritation.
Protein is critical for the health of your muscles and organs. Hemp seeds are one of just a few plant foods that are considered “complete” proteins, containing all the essential amino acids. Your body can also absorb hemp seed protein better than many other plant-based proteins. If you choose to follow a plant-based diet, adding hemp seeds to your food is a quick and easy way to get more protein.
Amounts and Dosage
Hemp seeds are not a low-calorie food. A single 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains 166 calories. It’s important to pay attention to your caloric intake in order to maintain your weight. Eating one to two servings of hemp seeds daily can help you get the benefits of these nutritious seeds while still eating a well-rounded diet.
ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.
Euphytica: “Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview.”
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method.”
Journal of Dermatological Treatment: “Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis.”
The Journal of Reproductive Medicine: “The role of essential fatty acids and prostaglandins in the premenstrual syndrome.”
National Institutes of Health: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”
National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin E.”
Nutrition and Metabolism: “The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.”
Nutrition Reviews: “Health benefits of dietary fiber.”
Reproductive Health: “Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study.”
Find out what nutrients are in hemp and learn how it can help everything from eczema to heart disease.