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.
The Difference Between Hemp Seeds and Hemp Protein Powder
Alright guys, the time has come for me to discuss an issue that has been confusing health-conscious vegans everywhere. Today, I will be exploring the nitty gritty deets (how’s that for a relevant pun?) behind hemp seeds and hemp protein powder .
Far too often, I hear from potential clients seeking vegan meal plans that don’t contain any soy. I’m all for a whole foods approach to eating but when we’re talking about a vegan competition prep diet or simply building muscle on a vegan diet , truth is, our protein options are somewhat limited. And I do believe that it’s that much harder for us veegs to build muscle AND lower body fat without consuming ANY soy therefore it’s crucial to at least include protein powder in their diet plan.
I’m also all about variety when it comes to meal planning so I’ll usually include both a good-quality rice-based protein like my own and also a hemp-based option like Manitoba Harvest . And you know what question 90% of clients come back with?
“Can I eat hemp seeds instead of hemp protein powder?”
And then I take a deep breath and go into my lengthy, passionate description as to why hemp seeds will not produce the same “Jacked on the Beanstalk” results as hemp powder. The short answer being HEMP SEEDS ARE A FAT SOURCE. HEMP POWDER IS A PROTEIN SOURCE.
Yes, hemp seeds are considered a “whole food” and do contain some protein. And yes, it is hemp seeds that are ground up in the first stage of hemp protein processing. The seeds are, however, squeezed to extract the oil (removing most of the fat content.) And what remains is referred to as “hemp seed cake” (mmmmmmm sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?) 🙂
The hemp “seed cake” is what gets milled and turned into powder. The powder is then sifted into “hemp flour.” This flour from the initial “sifting” creates a high fiber product but one that’s also lower in protein. Side note: am I using enough quotation marks in this paragraph or no?
Finally, to make that muscle building hemp protein we meatless meatheads love oh-so-much, the flour gets sifted to an even finer degree. This extra sifting removes a lot of the fiber content, leaving a higher concentration of protein.
And THAT my vegan friends, is why a handful of hemp hearts is far more tasty and enjoyable than a bowl of hemp powder. They’re FAT. And who doesn’t love fats?!
I should also mention that due to the fact hemp protein is made from hemp seeds , it obviously produces a protein powder with a slightly higher fat content than say, a rice or pea-based protein. So for my clients who are training for a competition or desperately trying to lower body fat, I will put more rice protein on their meal plans rather than hemp powder to keep fats lower.
And finally, for all you macro counters who want the cold, hard, nutritional facts, these ghetto, highlighted tables were made just for you! 🙂
Check the higher fat and calories of hemp seeds and note their lower protein and fiber content:
And here is the nutritional data for North Coast Naturals’ organic hemp protein powder :
I should mention that regardless of how you eat ’em, hemp seeds are still a nutrition powerhouse as you can see from my tables above. They digest easily, taste awesome and are super versatile, adding great texture to everything from salads and oatmeal to baking and smoothies.
And the fat they do contain is at least GOOD FAT. We’re talkin’ a healthy dose of omega-3 and omega-6s plus muscle-building amino acids. Hemp seeds are also high in magnesium which helps you to fall asleep at night, relaxes your muscles, controls blood sugar, blood pressure and good for your bones. So however which way you choose to eat them, get ’em in ya.
Alright, I’m officially over talking about hemp. And for some reason, now I feel as though I should smoke a joint, eat some hemp seed cake and do yoga in the forest…
Disclaimer: this picture was totally staged for a stock photo my friend Roby Pavone needed. What’s yoga?!
The nitty, gritty facts (pun intended) on the difference between hemp seeds and hemp powder & why one is much better for vegan bodybuilders than the other.