Hemp Hearts Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman
Hemp hearts are the soft inner part of hemp seeds after the outer shell has been removed. The tiny cream and green-colored seeds are sometimes referred to as shelled or hulled hemp seeds.
Hemp hearts come from the from Cannabis sativa L. plant. But unlike some other species of the cannabis plant, hemp hearts have nonmedicinal levels (less than 0.3%) of the psychoactive compound THC.
The plant originates from Central Asia and the hemp fibers and seeds have been used and enjoyed by humans for thousands of years. Today, hemp hearts can be found worldwide. They’re loved for their versatility, nutty flavor, and nutritious benefits.
Hemp Heart Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 3 tablespoons (30g) of hulled, hemp seed.
- Calories: 166
- Fat: 14.6g
- Sodium: 1.5mg
- Carbohydrates: 2.6g
- Fiber: 1.2g
- Sugars: 0.5g
- Protein: 9.5g
A single serving of hemp hearts is relatively high in calories but low in carbohydrates. A serving of hemp heart (3 tablespoons) has 166 calories but just 2.6 grams of carbohydrates. Nearly half of the carbs (about 1.2 grams) come from fiber. Only a half gram of carbs come from sugar and the rest comes from starch.
Hemp hearts are a low glycemic food with the glycemic load of a single 3-tablespoon serving estimated to be 0.
Hemp hearts are filled with healthy fats. A serving of 3 tablespoons has almost 15 grams of fat, of which 1.4 grams are saturated, 1.6 grams are monounsaturated, and 11.4 grams are polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). That’s more of the good fats than you’ll find in a similar serving of chia or flax seeds. Since hemp hearts are plant-based, they are also cholesterol-free.
These little seeds pack a huge plant-based protein punch. A serving of 3 tablespoons has nearly 10 grams of protein, about double what you’ll find in a similar serving of flax seeds or chia seeds (about 5 grams each).
Hemp seeds also contain all nine essential amino acids, and they are well digested, especially for a plant-based protein.
In general, animal sources such as eggs, milk, and whey have a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAA) of 1.00, which means they’re well digested. Plant protein sources typically fall below this. Soy leads the plant category with a score close to 1.00, followed by beans, pulses, and legumes (score of 0.6 to 0.7), and grains and nuts (0.4 to 0.5). Hemp hearts have a PDCAA score of 0.63 to 0.66.
Vitamins and Minerals
Not only are hemp hearts loaded with healthy fats and proteins, but they’re also packed with nutrients.
Hemp is an excellent source of magnesium, providing about 210mg or about 50% of your daily needs. A serving of seeds also has 13% of the daily iron requirements for adults (2.4mg). Hemp hearts are also a good source of zinc, providing about 3mg per serving or about 20% of your daily needs.
By including hemp seeds in your diet, you may take advantage of certain health benefits. Many research studies investigating hemp benefits have been performed on animals. More research in humans is needed.
Improved Heart Health
Like other seeds (and nuts), hemp seeds are heart-healthy. Studies have shown that they are high in both omega-3 fatty and omega-6 fatty acids. A healthy omega-3 to omega-6 intake is crucial for the prevention or reduction of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
Authors of one research review concluded that there is enough evidence to support the hypothesis that hemp seeds have the potential to beneficially influence heart disease, but they added that more research is needed.
Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
You’ll get a healthy dose of magnesium when consuming hemp seeds. Magnesium is needed by the body for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium helps the body break down sugars and might help reduce the risk of insulin resistance—a condition that can lead to diabetes.
Magnesium also helps your body to build stronger bones. The NIH reports that people with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. And studies have shown that a proper level of magnesium in the body is important for maintaining healthy bones.
Hemp seeds may provide some relief to those with constipation due to the fiber they provide. Researchers have found that increasing your fiber intake helps to increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.
Preliminary research has also found that hemp seeds may help with constipation. One animal study found that consuming hemp seed soft capsules helped relieve constipation compared to the control group. However, more research needs to be conducted to understand the full benefit in humans.
Improved Cognitive Function
Another recent, preliminary animal study was conducted on the potential benefit hemp seeds might have on issues with memory and neuroinflammation. Researchers found that the hemp seed extract prevented the learning and spatial memory damage from inflammation and improved damage from the induced inflammation in the hippocampus.
More studies need to be conducted to see if this benefit extends to humans.
Allergic reactions to Cannabis sativa have been reported, although many studies investigate the part of the plant used for marijuana use (not hemp seeds). There have been reports of sore throat, nasal congestion, rhinitis, pharyngitis, wheezing, and other problems including anaphylactic responses. There have also been reports of hemp workers involved in processing hemp fibers at a textile mill showing a significantly higher prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms.
Recent reports of allergy to hemp seed are lacking. But at least one older study was published indicating that the condition is possible.
When consumed as a food, hemp seed is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Many people wonder if they will get high from consuming hemp seeds. But that is not likely to happen. While marijuana and hemp seeds are related (they come from the same cannabis plant family), they are very different.
Hemp seeds don’t naturally contain significant levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component. In fact, food-grade strains of hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. But studies have noted that they may not be free of this compound entirely.
A study conducted in Canada found variations in THC levels in hemp seed products, with some evaluated brands containing higher amounts than the legal threshold. Researchers suggested that the higher levels may be due to contamination during processing.
If you are taking certain medications, including estrogen, ACE inhibitors, or antihypertensive drugs, speak to your healthcare providers before consuming hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds are naturally gluten-free but can be subject to cross-contamination if they are processed in a facility that also processes gluten-containing grains. So if you adhere to a gluten-free diet, look for brands that are certified gluten free.
The common varieties of hemp hearts are organic and non-organic, but you’ll often find other derivatives of the hemp seed including, protein powder, soft gel capsules, oil, and hemp meal.
Many people wonder how hemp seeds compare to other common seeds like flax and chia. All of these seeds—chia, flax, and hemp—are great sources of plant protein and fiber. They do vary when it comes to their nutritional offerings. Hemp hearts have 10 grams of protein per serving, while chia and flax have only 5 grams per serving.
Additionally, hemp hearts have more omega fatty acids—with 12 grams per serving—than flax and chia seeds with 9 and 7 grams respectively. Hemp seeds are also unique in that they contain something called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is an anti-inflammatory omega fatty acid; flax and chia seeds do not.
When It’s Best
Hemp seeds are available year-round in many natural food stores. But hemp is often harvested in the fall.
Storage and Food Safety
Hemp seeds can spoil fairly easily. But when stored properly, a package of hemp hearts can last for a year. Packages of shelled hemp seeds should be stored in a cool, dry place or at cooler temperatures. The best way to prevent spoilage is to store hemp seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator. When stored in a pantry, they will only last 3 to 4 months.
You can also store seeds in freezer-safe bags and store them in the freezer. You’ll know that hemp hearts have gone bad when they have a rancid smell.
How to Prepare
You can use hemp hearts to make many kitchen staples. For example, you can make hemp milk by blending hemp hearts with water, then straining them. Ground seeds can be used to make flour. Or you can use the ground seeds to make vegan protein powder. Some people extract hemp oil from the seeds and used for dressings and sauces.
Hemp hearts are versatile, so they can be used in a range of dishes, from sweet to savory. They help provide texture, a little crunch, and a subtle, nutty flavor. They’re a great protein-packed addition that can be sprinkled atop many dishes or included in a recipe as an ingredient.
Consider these simple ways to use hemp seeds, hemp milk, or hemp oil:
Hemp hearts—also called hulled hemp seeds—are a good source of protein and healthy fat. A 3-tablespoon serving provides 166 calories, 15 grams of healthy fat, and over 9 grams of protein.
Hemp Seeds: Are They Good for You?
In this Article
In this Article
In this Article
- Nutrition Information
- Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
- Potential Risks of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are a rich source of nutrients. Part of the hemp plant, these seeds are technically a nut that can be eaten raw or used to make milk, oil, cheese substitutes, or protein powder.
While related to the cannabis plant, hemp seeds have little to none of the psychoactive compound THC found in marijuana. For centuries the seeds have been used for oral and topical applications to treat and prevent certain health issues. A growing body of modern clinical research is backing up many of these claims.
Hemp seeds’ nutty flavor and versatility also make them a great substitute for the levels of protein, essential fatty acids, and other nutritional benefits found in meat and dairy products.
Hemp seeds can be:
- Eaten raw, roasted, or cooked
- Shelled as hemp hearts
- Cold-pressed to produce hemp seed oil
- Used for non-dairy hemp milk and hemp cheese
A 30 gram serving (three-tablespoons) of raw hemp seeds contains:
- Calories: 166
- Protein: 9.47 grams
- Fat: 14.6 grams
- Carbohydrates: 2.6 grams
- Fiber: 1.2 grams
- Sugar: 0.45 grams
Hemp seeds are also good source of:
Hemp seeds also contain high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
Studies have shown that the ideal ratio for the fatty acids in hemp seeds is 3 to 1. At this ratio, these fatty acids help to support healthy cholesterol levels, immune system function, and may help regulate your metabolism.
Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They contain all nine essential amino acids, and research suggests that hemp’s protein content is well-absorbed by our bodies.
In addition to this protein load, hemp seeds history is tied to their potential health benefits. Many modern studies have backed up several of these claims.
Hemp seeds’ health benefits include:
Hemp seeds are a great source of magnesium, which helps regulate your heartbeat and is linked to the prevention of coronary heart disease. They also contain Linoleic acid, which one study found reduced participants’ cholesterol levels by 15% and may act to reduce blood pressure.
One of the omega-6 fatty acids in hemp seeds is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA,) which may have anti-inflammatory effects similar to drugs like ibuprofen. One study found a 75% reduction in arthritis-associated pain in participants after nine months of GLA supplementation.
Hemp oil can be used in cooking to add nutritional benefits to your meal, and it can also be applied topically to the skin. Studies have found that hemp seed oil can relieve the symptoms of eczema and improve dry or itchy skin.
Research is ongoing, but hemp seed oil’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects may also help to treat acne.
The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds is the optimal level for nutritional benefit. This balance supports both heart and cognitive health and is often lacking in most diets..
Hemp seeds also contain plant compounds called terpenes. While research is ongoing, studies suggest that terpenes may help protect the brain and prevent tumor growth.
Potential Risks of Hemp Seeds
While the fat content in hemp seeds comes primarily from its healthy essential fatty acids, eat them in moderation to meet your recommended daily consumption of fat. High fat intake can also cause nausea or diarrhea.
Other things to consider before adding hemp seeds to your diet include:
Hemp seeds may interact with certain medications including anticoagulants.
Studies have shown that hemp seeds reduce blood clotting, which can interact with blood-thinner prescriptions.
There is not enough clinical research to show that hemp is safe either orally or topically for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, so it is not recommended.
Hemp seed shells can contain trace amounts of THC, the active psychoactive compound in marijuana. People with a previous dependence on cannabis may consider looking for an alternative.
The fiber content in hemp seeds can cause digestive discomfort like bloating, nausea, or constipation in large amounts. Make sure to drink plenty of water when eating hemp seeds to help avoid gut problems.
Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. “Cannabis sativa (Hemp) Seeds, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and Potential Overdose.”
Biochemical Education: “The action of vitamin K and coumarin anticoagulants.”
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.”
Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostatis: “Dietary hempseed reduces platelet aggregation.”
Oilseeds and fats, Crops and Lipids:“A short review on sources and health benefits of GLA, The GOOD omega-6.”
Mayo Clinic. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”
Nutrients: “Dietary Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review with Emphasis in Epidemiological Studies.”
Nutrition & Metabolism: “The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.”
Plant Science: “Terpenes in Cannabis sativa – From plant genome to humans.”
PLOS One: “The ameliorative effect of hemp seed hexane extracts on the Propionibacterium acnes-induced inflammation and lipogenesis in sebocytes.”>
The British Medical Journal (BMJ): “The importance of a balanced ω-6 to ω-3 ratio in the prevention and management of obesity.”
The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behaviour Letter: “FDA on CBD in pregnancy and breastfeeding”
USDA FoodData Central: “Seeds, hemp seed, hulled.”
Find out what the research says about hemp seeds, who should have them, and how they may affect your health.