Here Are the Hemp Seed Benefits You Should Know About, According to a Nutritionist
You're probably familiar with sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and even pumpkin seeds. But hemp plants also produce edible seeds that can be used in a variety of ways—and the seeds happen to be nutrient powerhouses. Here's the scoop on hemp seed benefits, as well as ways to incorporate the seeds into meals and snacks.
Hemp seed nutrition
Hemp seeds are loaded with nutrients. A 3-tablespoon portion provides 166 calories with almost 10 grams of protein, 14 grams of anti-inflammatory fat, and just 2.5 grams of carb with 1 gram as fiber. Hemp seeds are also packed with key vitamins and minerals, including 100% of the daily value (DV) for manganese, a nutrient needed to maintain strong bones and produce collagen for healthy skin and joints.
With that portion of hemp seeds, you'll also take in 25% of the DV for zinc, which supports immune function, and 10%-25% of the recommended intake for key energy-supporting B vitamins. Hemp seeds are also rich in a variety of antioxidants and protective bioactive compounds, according to a 2020 review published in the journal Nutrients.
Hemp seeds are also high in magnesium, a mineral that supports learning, memory, mood, and healthy sleep. For example, Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds from 365 by Whole Foods ($5, amazon.com) provides 45% of the daily need for magnesium in a 3-tablespoon serving. That magnesium content might be especially good news for athletes, who've shown to have improved strength, oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance with a higher magnesium intake.
Ways to eat hemp seeds
Hemp seeds, which may also be labeled as "hemp hearts" (aka, hulled hemp seeds), have a subtle nutty flavor and crunchy texture. They can be eaten as is or incorporated into a variety of dishes. At breakfast, blend them into smoothies or sprinkle onto cereal, oatmeal, overnight oats, açaí bowls, yogurt, fresh fruit, or avocado. Add hemp seeds to homemade energy balls, salads, hummus, cooked veggies, falafel, and slaw, or enjoy them as a garnish on nearly any dish, from soup to stir frys. Hemp seeds can also be incorporated into pancakes, as well as baked goods like bread, cookies, and muffins.
A few hemp seed products I like due to their quality include:
Can hemp seeds make you high?
In case you're wondering, nope, hemp seeds won't get you stoned. While edible hemp seeds come from the same species as cannabis—marijuana—the seeds contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (aka, THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
Other ways to consume hemp
Apart from seeds, hemp can be consumed in the forms of oil, milk, and protein powder—each with its own offering of nutritional benefits.
Use cold-pressed hemp seed oil in chilled dishes, including smoothies, salad dressing, pesto, and cold marinated veggie sides. Like hemp seeds, the oil offers beneficial anti-inflammatory fat
Use hemp milk as you would any other plant milk: in coffee, smoothies, cereal, or overnight oats or to make sauces and blended soups. Like hemp seeds, the milk offers a solid amount of your DV for magnesium. For example, Unsweetened Hemp Milk from Pacific Foods ($4, amazon.com) provides 15% of the DV for magnesium, as well as 3 grams of protein, in a 1-cup serving.
Use hemp protein—which supplies protein from hemp, concentrated into a ground powder—in smoothies, pancakes, oatmeal, overnight oats, energy balls, baked goods, chia pudding, and even savory blended soups. Like hemp seeds, hemp protein contains key nutrients, including manganese, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. For example, 365 Everyday Value Organic Unflavored Hemp Protein ($15, amazon.com) can provide 15 grams of protein and over a quarter of the daily fiber target in a 4-tablespoon portion, or a quarter cup.
What does the research say?
Human studies that link the consumption of hemp foods to specific health outcomes are lacking. That remains true when it comes to hemp seeds specifically, with researchers saying it's "necessary to deepen and expand the research and the knowledge" of hemp seed benefits and their potential use as a functional food.
Still, it is known that hemp seeds—as well as other hemp-based foods—are nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. The anti-inflammatory fat, high-quality plant protein, and broad range of minerals and vitamins found in hemp foods make them nutritious choices with likely health benefits. They also offer a simple way to up your intake of plant-based foods. So where can you find these foods, specifically hemp seeds? You'll see them at mainstream supermarkets, with a wider range at health food stores and online. Get creative in the kitchen and experiment with various ways to incorporate them into both sweet and savory dishes.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.
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