Fitness & Nutrition

Hemp Seeds Nutrition for Better Health

By Melena Gurganus

As hemp continues to gain popularity as an agricultural crop, the nutrient rich seeds of these plants are also gaining recognition for their possible health benefits. Hemp seeds come from a substrain of cannabis sativa, but they won’t produce any psychoactive effects like marijuana. Similar to chia seeds, hemp seeds are considered to be a super food by many for its beneficial protein, fiber, fatty acids, and essential amino acids that promote overall health and wellness.

Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Perhaps the most valuable nutritional benefits of hemp seeds come from the essential fatty acids that they offer. These seeds contain an abundance of omega-3s and omega-6s, which are essential fatty acids that we need yet the body cannot produce them on its own.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are an important building block of cell membranes, and they can affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They are also an integral part of producing hormones that regulate important bodily functions like inflammation and blood clotting.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids create energy that our body needs to function, but they are much more readily available than omega-3s. Omega-6 is often found in popular foods like meat, poultry, dairy, and plenty of fast foods. While this essential fatty acid play an key role in maintaining bone health, metabolism, and reproduction, too much of it can have negative consequences.

Note: Many people have too much omega-6 in their diet due to its overwhelming presence in many of the foods we consume everyday. The current ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the average diet is estimated to fall between 10:1 and 20:1. However, hemp seeds have an ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio between 2:1 or 3:1, which makes them a great addition to your diet in combination with other healthy eating choices.

Along with the fatty acids that hemp seeds offer, they’re also a good source of plant based protein and fiber. In conjunction, all of the valuable nutrients in hemp seeds are believed to have several health benefits, including:

  • Promoting heart health—The essential amino acids and fatty acids in hemp seeds both work to improve heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, and increasing levels of good cholesterol. Because of this, hemp hearts are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and blood clots.
  • Improving brain health—With an abundant amount of vitamin E, hemp seeds offer mild antioxidant properties that may prevent the damage of cells and reduce oxidative stress that leads to neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s.
  • Aid in digestion—Much of the fiber within hemp seeds lies within the outer shell, which contains good levels of both soluble and insoluble fiber that is essential for digestion. This fiber can benefit digestive bacteria, regulate bowel movements, and potentially reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • Reducing inflammation—The body’s inflammatory response is managed by the immune system, which is thought to depend heavily on the balance of omega-6s and omega-3s. The optimal ratio of essential fatty acids in hemp seeds may help regulate the immune response, and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) from omega-6 also works to neutralize and reverse inflammation in the body.
  • Supporting bone health—Hemp seeds contain nearly 11 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons, and since protein is necessary for maintaining bone mineral density, hemp seeds may also support the health of bones, cartilage, and muscles.

Different Types of Hemp Seeds

There are essentially two different forms of hemp seeds, those that still have the shell in tact and those that have had it removed. Hulled hemp seeds, also known has hemp hearts, do not have their outer shell (hull), and this also means that they lose much of the valuable fiber that unhulled hemp seeds have. However, hemp hearts tend to be easier to mix into a wide variety of food dishes since they are not as crunchy as hemp seeds.

How to Eat Hemp Seeds

There are a plethora of ways that you can incorporate hemp seeds into your everyday diet, starting with simple meals like salads, smoothies, and oatmeal. The nutty taste of hemp seeds pairs well with a lot of foods, but it can just as easily be hidden by other strong flavors if you aren’t a fan of the natural taste of hemp. Hemp seeds can also be used to make other hemp products like protein powders, hemp milk, and hemp seed oil, which further expands the available options that allow you to benefit from the valuable nutrients within hemp seeds.

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