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eat hemp seeds

What You Should Know About Eating Hemp Seeds

Fact: Hemp seeds are delicious.

If you’ve hesitated to add hemp seeds to your shopping cart, you’ve probably wondered something like this: Are hemp seeds worth the price? What will I eat them with? And will I, uh, become impaired if I eat too many? If you’re at all skeptical of hemp seeds, this one’s for you.

What is hemp seed?

Hemp seeds (aka hemp hearts) have become a popular health food for their protein, fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and other nutrients.

These seeds come from the hemp plant. Hemp plants and marijuana plants hail from the same species, Cannabis sativa L. Hemp seeds, however, won’t get you high. And you won’t fail a drug test after eating them.

It’s true that hemp plants contain low levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. But we’re talking just 0.03 percent. In fact, in 2018, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) ruled that hemp doesn’t fit the definition of marijuana. Not to mention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates hemp products. So, yes, hemp seeds are totally legal and safe to eat.

What do hemp seeds taste like?

Hemp seeds taste similar to sunflower seeds, somewhat like pine nuts, and a little like walnuts, too.

What are hemp seeds used for?

Hemp seeds enhance savory and sweet dishes alike. Mix them into Lemony Cabbage-Avocado Slaw or a kale and apple salad for extra crunch. Blend them into hummus to play up its nutty flavor. Turn them into pesto. Sub them for bulgur wheat in tabouleh. Sprinkle them over oatmeal and chocolatey chia pudding, or bake them into chocolate chip protein bars. You can also turn them into homemade hemp milk.

Fact: Hemp seeds are delicious.

Everything You Need to Know About How to Eat Hemp Seeds

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Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods

As far as the nut and seed world goes, hemp seeds are like the straight-A student who’s also captain of the football team. A couple of spoonfuls of hemp seeds packs a serious amount of essential nutrients, they’re easy to eat and cook with, and they have a pleasantly nutty taste, like a cross between a sunflower seed and a pine nut. And no, they won’t get you remotely high. Here’s everything you need to know about how to buy and eat these little seeds.

Although hemp and marijuana are members of the same species, Cannabis sativa, they’re in effect completely different plants. There are about a dozen varieties of hemp plants that are grown for food, and all of them contain about 0.001 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This means you can eat as much hemp as you want and you’ll never have to worry about getting high or failing a drug test. Although certain states have begun to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the last couple of years, the hemp seeds you can find at your grocery or health food store were likely grown in Canada or China.

Hemp plants grow brown popcorn kernel-sized hard seeds. Inside these hard seeds lie soft, white or light green inner kernels that are packed with essential amino acids, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can’t really derive a lot of nutritional value from the unhulled seeds, so when you see a bag at the store labeled “hemp seeds,” what you’re actually buying is those soft inner kernels, also known as hemp hearts. Hemp hearts can be pressed to make hemp seed oil, leaving behind a byproduct that can be turned into hemp protein powder. You can find all of these hemp products at health food stores, or a well-stocked grocery store like Whole Foods.

Eating shelled hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, is as simple as sprinkling a spoonful or two into smoothies or on top of cereal, salads, or yogurt, says Kelly Saunderson of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, the world’s largest hemp foods manufacturer. People with gluten sensitivity can use hemp seeds as a substitute for breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish. Just like you can blend almonds and water to make almond milk, you can do the same with hemp seeds for hemp seed milk, which you can use as an alternative to dairy milk in drinks and recipes. And because of its nutty flavor, hemp seeds make a great substitute for people with nut allergies—you can dry-toast them over low heat to bring out even more of that nuttiness.

Hemp seed oil should be used as a finishing oil, rather than a cooking or frying oil, since the delicate omega fatty acids will break down during the cooking process, stripping the oil of its nutritional benefits. Instead, use it to make salad dressings, or drizzle over pasta, grilled veggies, or popcorn.

Hemp seeds are considered one of the most valuable plant-based proteins out there. Here's what you need to know about how to eat them.