Nutritional Benefits of Hemp
Hemp foods deliver some fantastic nutritional benefits to your body.
Hemp seeds, as described by Healthline, are technically a nut, with a mild, nutty flavour and are often referred to as hemp hearts.
Many people consider hemp seeds to be a superfood. The seeds have a rich nutritional profile and provide a range of health benefits.
1. One of The Most Nutrient-Dense Foods
Hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats and essential fatty acids, crucial for long-term health. The body cannot produce essential fatty acids, and must absorb them from the diet.
Hemp seeds contain over 30% fat. They are exceptionally rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, an omega-3). They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which has been linked to several health benefits
Jemima Skelley notes on BuzzFeed: “According to health advocator Dr Sandy Krafchik, hemp seeds have a unique nutritional profile, and are actually a complete food source. "They have a nearly perfect ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 essential fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and high cholesterol."”
2. A Great Source of Plant-Based Protein
Medical News Today explains:
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.
The digestibility of hemp protein is also very good—better than protein from many grains, nuts and legumes.
3. A High-Fiber Food
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 good source of 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
As highlighted by Medical News Today, hemp seeds contain an impressive array of vitamins and minerals and are especially rich in vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
They are also a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B-6, and folate.
Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds have many positive health effects on your body. They may:
1. Protect Your Brain
According to Medical News Today:
The fatty acid content of hemp seed oil may also be good for the brain, which requires plenty of healthful fats to operate properly. Hemp seed oil is also rich in other compounds that may help protect the brain. A recent study in mice found that a hemp seed extract containing these active compounds was able to help protect the brain against inflammation. The authors note that hemp seed oil contains polyphenols, which may play a role in protecting the brain.
2. Lower Cholesterol and Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease
Because hemp oil is so rich in essential fatty acids, specifically omega-3’s and omega-6’s, it is an important dietary addition to help reduce cholesterol levels. Hemp oil accelerates metabolic processes, thereby accelerating metabolism. When you have a high metabolism, your body burns much more fat than usual, and it stops depositing nasty fat deposits throughout your vital arteries.
Healthline further elaborates:
The seeds contain high amounts of the amino acid arginine, which produces nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that makes your blood vessels dilate and relax, leading to lowered blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. In a large study in over 13,000 people, increased arginine intake corresponded with decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker. High levels of CRP are linked to heart disease. The gamma-linolenic acid found in hemp seeds has also been linked to reduced inflammation, which may decrease your risk of diseases like heart disease. Additionally, animal studies have shown that hemp seeds or hemp seed oil may reduce blood pressure, decrease the risk of blood clot formation and help the heart recover after a heart attack.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Medical News Today says: 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.
Reducing inflammation may help manage the symptoms of chronic diseases, such as:
type 2 diabetes
non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease
4. Promote Healthy Skin and Hair
Hemp oil is chock-full of natural oils that mimic your skin’s lipids. Lipids are a vital aspect to your skin’s protective barrier, they also are essential to cell-to-cell communication. With its similarities to these lipids, hemp oil helps to rejuvenate aging skin, assists with water absorption, and elasticity.
Hemp oil is already a very common ingredient in homemade or natural shampoos and hair care products as it naturally thickens hair and prevents hair loss. Massaging hemp oil into your scalp, or shampooing your hair using hemp based products, stimulates blood flow and reduces inflammation which may be causing underlying itching and soreness of the scalp.
These essential fatty acids cannot be naturally manufactured within the body and therefore it is important to ensure you are getting enough through your diet or skincare regime.
Earthly Body describes why hemp seed oil is good for the body and skin:
Hemp seed oil is renowned for its skin moisturizing and rejuvenating properties. Essential fatty acids have the ability to enter directly into the lipid layers of skin cells, replenishing the oils that are missing due to sun exposure, poor nutrition or neglect; and as shown by clinical studies can actually slow down the aging effects on skin. This provides nourishing protection to the skin, while the high moisture content helps to repair and soften damaged skin cells. Throughout history hemp seed oil has been used as a soothing restorative to dry, damaged skin. The replenishing nutrients of hemp seed oil are able to penetrate deep into skin cells – providing natural emollients and a lasting barrier to moisture loss – increasing the skin’s natural capacity for moisture retention.
5. Reduce Symptoms of PMS and Menopause
According to Healthline,
Up to 80% of women of reproductive age may suffer from physical or emotional symptoms caused by premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These symptoms are very likely caused by sensitivity to the hormone prolactin. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in hemp seeds, produces prostaglandin E1, which reduces the effects of prolactin. In a study in women with PMS, taking 1 gram of essential fatty acids — including 210 mg of GLA — per day resulted in a significant decrease in symptoms. Because hemp seeds are high in GLA, several studies have indicated that they may help reduce symptoms of menopause, too.
6. Whole Hemp Seeds May Aid Digestion
Healthline elaborates: “Whole hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, containing 20% and 80%, respectively. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in your gut. It’s a valuable source of nutrients for beneficial digestive bacteria and may also reduce spikes in blood sugar and regulate cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and may help food and waste pass through your gut. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of diabetes.”
Tips for Adding Hemp to Your Food
You can purchase hulled, ground, or split seeds. To remove the seeds' hard outer shells at home, you can use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Whole seeds act as a bulking agent, and they also add fiber to the diet, which can aid digestion.
Hulled hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are whole seeds with the crunchy outer shell removed. They are about the size of a sesame seed, have a soft creamy texture and a nutty flavor, and can be added to almost anything for an extra boost of nutrition.
Hemp seed oil is a popular cooking oil, serving as an alternative for unhealthy oils, such as vegetable, palm, and canola. It is also much lower in saturated fatty acids than other common cooking oils. However, it has a very low smoke point, so frying with hemp seed oil isn’t recommended. Use hemp oil in low-heat cooking or salad dressings.
Dr. Weil recommends eating whole hemp seeds as a snack. They’re delicious and very easy to prepare. Just pour half a cup of seeds into a dry skillet placed over medium-high heat and stir them around until they begin to toast and pop. At that point, turn off the heat, stir in a teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper or a little soy sauce, red pepper, garlic powder or herbs. Prepare only as much as you can eat since the cooked seeds don’t keep well.
A Planet Friendly Plant
Hemp is a sustainable wonder crop. It can grow in a variety of climates and soil types. The crops grow close to one another, so they take up less space.
Farming hemp is also better for the planet than lots of other food sources. It doesn't need as many chemicals or fertilizers to grow, so in turn, it requires less water than plants like corn or cotton. Plus, the crops naturally improve the soil structure, remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees do, and are drought- and weed-resistant.
In a Nutshell
Hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats, essential fatty acids, protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
Consume them as is, sprinkled over your favorite dishes. Or grind them into protein powder. Or blend and press them into milk. Or just add hemp oil to your food. The possibilities are endless.
But remember, it’s always best to eat a diet containing a wide variety of foods so that you get a full spectrum of nutrients.