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A Beginner’s Guide to Hemp Seeds and Their Benefits

Hemp seeds are considered a complete nutritional source due to their high levels of over twenty nutrients.

A single source for all essential amino acids, as well as healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber? It’s true!

Hemp seeds are a valuable source of many of the nutrients our body needs every day to function at its best.

The hemp plant can be used to create a myriad of products including:

  • CBD supplements
  • Building materials
  • Fiber for clothing
  • Canvas
  • Rope
  • Bioplastics
  • Biofuels

Yet, hemp seeds are also becoming a massively popular food due to their incredible nutritional content.

What are Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds are the small brown seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp seeds are created in the flowers of pollinated female hemp plants. Hemp plants are cultivated in close rows in order to promote this pollination and increase seed production.

hemp seeds nutritional benefits

Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. They can be eaten whole and have a crunchy texture, or they can be shelled to expose the softer inner “heart”. Because hemp seeds are derived from low-THC hemp plants (below 0.3% THC), they are non-psychoactive and safe to eat.

Benefits of Hemp Seeds

It is difficult to find another food that is as nutrient-dense as hemp seeds. Adding hemp seeds to your diet significantly increases your intake of vital nutrients, helping fill the gaps of an otherwise potentially unbalanced diet. Hemp seeds contain the following nutrients, crucial to any complete diet.

Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids: The one fat you can never get enough of is Omega 3, which lowers triglyceride levels in the blood, reducing risk of heart disease. As an anti-inflammatory, Omega 3 fatty acids lower the joint pain and stiffness in arthritis sufferers and are useful in asthma treatment. Omega 3 may also ward off Alzheimer’s disease and fight ADHD and depression.

While both Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential to human health, they should ideally be consumed at a close ratio of around 3:1.  However, in the typical American diet, the ratio is about 25:1. This is due to a diet increasingly fried in vegetable oils high in Omega 6 and could be an indicator for a number of diseases. Eating the right kind of Omega 6 fatty acids, like gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a plant based Omega 6 fatty acid found in hemp at the 3:1 ratio suggested, can reduce the inflammation of high fat diets. Healthy acquisition of Omega 6 also helps with arthritis pain, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.

Amino Acids & Protein: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, one of the three macronutrients we consume everyday. It is important to obtain protein from the right dietary sources. Eating even small amounts of red meat has been linked to cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Instead, essential amino acids can be obtained through foods like nuts and legumes, chicken and turkey, fish and shellfish, beans and soy, and of course hemp. Hemp contains all 20 amino acids: including the 9 essential amino acids our body can’t make on its own.

Fiber: Critical to the health of your digestive system, fiber has also been linked to lower cholesterol levels and the improvement of blood sugar levels. A diet high in fiber can also help prevent colon cancer. The lifetime risk of colon cancer is 4% in both men and women, making it the 4th most prevalent cancer in the U.S. It strikes those aged 65 or older at much higher rates. To help reach the needed levels of fiber in your diet, add fiber-dense hemp seeds to your meals.

shelled hemp seed hearts

Hemp seeds also contain important vitamins and minerals, including:

Uses for Hemp Seed Products

Hemp seeds that have been sterilized are available as a food product, which can be eaten whole for a crunchy, nutty snack or as an addition to recipes calling for nuts. When shelled, the hemp seed’s nut, also called the hemp heart is revealed. You can add hemp hearts to smoothies or grind them up and sprinkle them on your yogurt, cereal, or other meals.

If you’re mainly looking for a plant-based source of protein, you can buy hemp protein in a variety of powders. You can dissolve it in liquids or blend it in smoothies. Some hemp protein retains the seed’s fiber, but others don’t.

Probably the most versatile and popular ways to consume hemp seed, hemp seed oil has the same nutrients as hemp hearts. Hemp seed oil can be used in recipes as a butter substitute, in salad dressings or dips, in place of other oils, and more. It’s best to use hemp seed oil as a finishing oil rather than as a cooking oil.

Hemp seeds are also sold as hemp seed butter, which you can consume like you would peanut butter. Also, much like almond milk, you can use hemp milk as a milk substitute.

Hemp Seed Recipes

Hemp seeds and their products can be used in a number of recipes to boost the dish’s nutritional value. We’ve included just a few of these recipes here for you to try.hemp seed smoothie recipe

Green Superfood and Protein Smoothie:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups kale leaves
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds or hemp protein powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 250ml (1 cup) water or milk
  • 3-5 ice cubes

Instructions:

  • Add the ice cubes to the blender.
  • Remove the peel from the banana. Chop or break it into two or three pieces so that it better fits in the blender. Add it to the top of the ice cubes.
  • Remove any stalks from the kale leaves. Tear the kale into small pieces and add them to the blender.
  • Add all remaining ingredients into a blender, finishing with the water or milk. Blend to puree the smoothie until it’s at your ideal consistency.

Hemp Seed Pesto Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup hemp seeds, lightly toasted
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil or hemp oil

Instructions:

  • Place toasted hemp seeds into a food processor or high speed blender and pulse until they’re broken down. Scrap sides of food processor bowl.
  • Add basil, garlic, and oil into the processor or blender. Pulse until well mixed.
  • Scoop the pesto base into separate bowl. Add grated cheese, salt and pepper. Use a spoon to stir thoroughly.
  • Taste, then add seasonings as needed to reach desired flavor.

Cherry Hemp Granola with Dark Chocolate:

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of raw almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup of hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 2/3 cup of dried cherries
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter (or peanut butter)
  • 2 teaspoons of maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a 9 X 11 rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Put the oats, almonds, oats, sunflower seeds, cherries, flax seeds, and hemp seeds in a large bowl. Use a spoon to stir to mix.
  • Put the brown rice syrup, almond butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Whisk until combined, then pour over dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir until everything is coated.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined baking pan and spread out evenly. Use a spoon or spatula to press down and tightly pack the mixture.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour.
  • Lift the parchment paper with the granola from the pan. Drop upside down onto cutting board. Cut mixture into bars.
  • Add melted coconut oil to small bowl.
  • Slowly heat the coconut oil, maple syrup and chocolate chips in a small saucepan over a low heat until melted and smooth.
  • Dip one flat end of each bar into the melted chocolate. Place each bar upside down on the parchment paper until chocolate hardens.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to a month.

Start Adding Hemp Seeds to Your Diet Today

Hemp seeds can be purchased at most grocery and specialty food stores or bought from online retailers. Because they are one of the most nutritious foods available, hemp seeds are a smart addition to your diet.

There is more to discover about hemp and its benefits on our Cannabis 101 page.

Post by Jeffrey Stamberger

Jeffrey writes media content covering the latest in news, medical research, policy changes, and product education from the cannabis industry.

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