Health benefits of hemp seeds
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Many people consider hemp seeds to be a superfood. The seeds have a rich nutritional profile and provide a range of health benefits.
Although hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, they do not produce a mind-altering effect.
These small, brown seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and healthful fatty acids, including omega-3s and omega-6s. They have antioxidant effects and may reduce symptoms of numerous ailments, improving the health of the heart, skin, and joints.
In this article, we look at the various benefits of hemp seeds and provide tips for adding them to the diet.
These seeds are full of nutritious compounds, including:
Share on Pinterest Hemp seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all nine essential amino acids.
Hemp seeds contain almost as much protein as soybeans. In every 30 grams (g) of seeds, or about 3 tablespoons, there are 9.46 g of protein.
These seeds are a complete source of protein, meaning that they provide all nine essential amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins. The body cannot produce nine of these acids, so a person must absorb them through the diet.
Relatively few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein, making hemp seeds a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Hemp seeds are especially rich in an amino acid called arginine, which has benefits for heart health.
2. Unsaturated fats
The health benefits of polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are becoming increasingly well known.
Hemp seeds are a great source of essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3.
The body cannot produce essential fatty acids, and the body must absorb them from the diet. They are crucial for long-term health.
The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is also important.
In general, people tend to eat too many omega-6s and too few omega-3s, but adding hemp seeds to the diet may help to promote a balance.
According to results of a 2015 animal study, incorporating hemp seeds and hemp seed oil to hens’ diet led to eggs with increased levels of omega-3s in the yolks and a more healthful omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
Also, hemp seeds are low in saturated fats and contain no trans fats.
Much of the fiber in a hemp seed lies in its outer hull, or shell. If possible, purchase hemp seeds with the hulls intact.
However, even without the shells, hemp seeds are a god source pf fiber, with three tablespoons containing approximately 1.2 g of fiber.
Consuming enough fiber every day can:
- reduce the appetite
- help with weight management
- work to stabilize blood sugar levels
- promote the health of the gut
4. Minerals and vitamins
Hemp seeds contain an impressive array of vitamins and minerals and are especially rich in:
- vitamin E
They are also a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins, including:
- vitamin B-6
Alongside the nutritional benefits, some research suggests that hemp seeds have a wide range of positive health effects. They may:
5. Protect the brain
A study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that hemp seed extract has antioxidant effects in lab tests. These effects may result from the seeds’ cannabidiol (CBD) content.
Results of a review from 2018 suggest that CBD and other compounds in the seeds may have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, effects and may also help to regulate the immune system.
The review suggests that, because of these potential properties, CBD may help with neurological conditions, including:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- neuropathic pain
- childhood seizure disorders
6. Boost heart health
The medical community believes that omega-3 fatty acids improve the health of the heart and reduce the risk of issues such as arrhythmias and heart disease.
Hemp seeds contain high levels of omega-3s and a healthful ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
The seeds also contain high levels of arginine, an amino acid that turns into nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide is essential for artery and vein dilation, and it helps keep blood vessel walls smooth and elastic.
Lowering blood pressure, eating a healthful diet, and participating in varied forms of exercise may help to decrease the risk of heart failure.
7. Reduce inflammation
The amount of omega-3s in hemp seeds and the seeds’ healthful omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can together help to reduce inflammation.
In addition, hemp seeds are a rich source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid which may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
Some studies on animals suggest that GLA can act as a potent anti-inflammatory. However, recent studies in humans suggest that the acid is not always effective.
A review in The European Journal of Pharmacology states that humans process GLA in a very complicated way, which may explain why the studies in humans produce more varied results than those on animals.
When looking at these studies, it is important to note that researchers usually use high concentrations of hemp seed extracts and that eating the seeds may produce less dramatic effects.
Reducing inflammation may help manage the symptoms of chronic diseases , such as:
- metabolic syndrome
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease
8. Improve skin conditions
Atopic dermatitis (AD) and acne can both result from chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory compounds in hemp seeds may help.
Among other possible dietary causes, acne may be linked to a deficiency in omega-3s. The high omega-3 content in hemp seeds may help to manage and reduce acne symptoms.
A 2018 review explored the effects of dietary changes on skin diseases. While the authors found evidence that eating more omega-3s may improve symptoms of acne, determining the extent of the effects will require more research.
The authors also note that prebiotics and plant fibers may help to manage symptoms of AD. Hemp seeds are a rich source of plant fiber.
9. Relieve rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. It causes the immune system to attack its own tissues, which leads to inflammation in the joints.
In 2014, research conducted in human cells suggested that hemp seed oil could have anti-rheumatic effects.
However, a 2018 review found a lack of conclusive evidence to suggest that cannabinoids could effectively treat rheumatic diseases. The authors noted that more research is needed.
Hemp seeds contain plenty of protein, healthful fatty acids, and fiber.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) , 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 116 calories and the following nutrients:
|Total fatty acids||14.62 g|
|Monounsaturated fatty acids||1.62 g|
|Polyunsaturated fat||11.43 g|
|Saturated fatty acids||1.38 g|
Hemp seeds are also a healthful source of vitamin E and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Hemp seeds are small, brown seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. They have a rich nutritional profile, with high concentrations of protein and healthful fatty acids. Wide-ranging research suggests that the seeds may reduce symptoms of specific ailments. Learn more about the benefits of hemp seeds here.
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.