Whether in yogurts, smoothie bowls, or energy bars, hemp hearts have become the latest seed trend that we can’t get enough of. Let’s understand how we can all benefit from incorporating these little nutrient-dense gems into our diets.
Shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are the small, creamy, nutty kernels found within the hard seeds that grow on hemp plants. Hemp seeds are technically nuts, and they are nutritional powerhouses that taste good atop smoothies, yogurt, oats, salads, and more.
While hemp and marijuana come from the same plant family Cannabis, hemp has almost non-existent, negligible amounts of THC compared to marijuana, which has very high amounts. So if you’re feeling great from your consumption of hemp seeds, it’s not from the THC! Despite this, cultivation is limited in the U.S. and most of the hemp seeds you purchase come from China or Canada.
Hemp seeds are an amazing nutritional superfood, containing fat, protein, Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, fiber, and more. Just 3 tablespoons contain 10 grams of highly digestible and absorbable protein which is equal or greater to most grains and nuts.
But it doesn’t stop there!
Hemp seeds are loaded with fats – the healthy kind that we could all use more of in our diets. The oil portion of the hemp seed is rich in the essential fatty acids, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid and has an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 2:1 to 3:1 which is considered ideal for human health and preventing inflammation in the body.
Let’s dive in more into these 4 health benefits of hemp seeds:
1. Cardiovascular health
Hemp seeds are rich in the amino acid arginine, a precursor to nitric oxide, which is an important factor in maintaining blood vessel health. Research suggests that diets rich in arginine can decrease risk of cardiovascular disease.
Hemp seeds contain the optimal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats, making it an excellent addition to the diet. Western diets typically contain an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of about 15 to 1. This ratio promotes inflammation and inflammation driven chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. For many, their diets lack adequate Omega-3 fats and a proinflammatory state persists. By increasing Omega-3 fat intake and consuming foods with an optimal ratio of 2-3:1, anti-inflammatory processes are promoted in the body.
3. Plant-based protein
For all of the vegetarians and vegans out there, hemp seeds are a must! They contain all 9 essential amino acids and pack in a large amount in a small serving! Better yet, the protein is highly digestible. Add to a post-workout smoothie for great recovery!
In one research study, symptoms of atopic dermatitis were improved after supplementation with hempseed oil. A questionnaire before and after showed self-reported improvement and subjects also decreased their dermal medication usage. These benefits are attributed to the high poly-unsaturated fatty acid and the anti-inflammatory properties.
Courtney Ferreira, MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian based in Baltimore, MD with a passion for helping individuals reach their health and wellness through flavorful whole foods and freedom from counting calories, fat, and minutes on a treadmill. For more insightful tips on living your healthiest life from Courtney, visit her at the RealFoodCourt.