The seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis Sativa L., are known as hemp seeds. They originate from the same species as cannabis but a different variety, and contain only trace amounts of the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant.
There really aren’t any side effects to consuming hemp seeds and hemp hearts, only benefits. They have a rich nutritional profile and are rich in healthy fats and essential fatty acids, fiber, minerals, and protein. These brown seeds have antioxidant effects which reduce symptoms of numerous health conditions and improve one’s overall health, skin, as well as joint health.
The nutritional and health benefits of hemp seeds are numerous, which is why many people consider them to be a superfood. Read on to find out why.
The Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Even though they’re called hemp seeds, they’re technically a nut. Hemp seeds and hemp hearts have a nutty flavor, and they can be consumed raw, cooked, toasted, or made into hemp seed oil which can be used in cooking. Below, we’ll give you an overview of the hemp seed nutrition profile.
Nutritional Profile of Hemp Seeds
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, the nutritional value of 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds, or 30 grams of protein, contain:
- Energy 180 kcal;
- Protein 10 g (20%);
- Fat 15 g (23%);
- Carbohydrates 2 g (1%);
- Fiber 0.99 g (2%);
- Calcium 21 mg (2%);
- Magnesium 210 mg (68%);
- Iron 2.4 mg (13%);
- Phosphorus 495 mg (71%);
- Potassium 360 mg (8%);
- Zinc 3 mg (37%).
Hemp seeds are an easily digestible complete protein source that provide all nine essential amino acids. Since more than 25% of their calories are high-quality protein, or over 9.46 g of protein per 30 g of seeds, they contain considerably more protein than chia seeds and flaxseeds that contain 16–18% protein. They’re especially beneficial as a result of containing the amino acid arginine which promotes good heart health.
2. Unsaturated Fats
Hemp seeds contain over 30% fat, two of the most important essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids) in a ratio that is beneficial to the body, and no trans fats. The alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3), the linoleic acid (omega-6), and the gamma-linolenic acid are all present in hemp seeds and work to prevent heart attacks and lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Hemp seeds are a great source of dietary fiber, and most of their fiber is located in the outer shell, which is why it’s best to purchase them with the hulls intact. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 1.2 g of fiber.
4. Minerals and Vitamins
Hemp seeds are a good source of vitamins and minerals, and they’re especially rich in vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B-6, folate, and others. (Farinon et al, 2020)
Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Apart from the numerous nutritional benefits, hemp seeds have a number of positive health effects.
Effects on the Brain
Studies have shown that hemp seeds have powerful antioxidant and neuroprotective effects that may help regulate the immune system. The CBD present in hemp seeds can also help with neurological conditions such as:
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Neuropathic pain;
- Childhood seizure disorders.
Effects on Heart Health and Reducing Inflammation and the Risk for Heart Disease
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce the risk of heart disease which is why hemp seeds are ideal for good heart health. The seeds also contain high amounts of arginine, which is responsible for the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, which means a lower risk of heart disease.
In a 2005 study of over 13,000 people, increased arginine intake resulted in decreased levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein (CRP). Lower levels of CRP equal a lower chance of heart disease. The gamma-linolenic acid, on the other hand, reduces inflammation which furthermore decreases inflammation and the risk of heart disease.
By reducing inflammation in the body, hemp seeds help with managing the symptoms of the following chronic diseases:
- Metabolic syndrome;
- Type 2 diabetes;
- Heart disease;
- Non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease.
Finally, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil decrease blood pressure – which then decreases the risk of blood clot formation, promotes good cardiovascular health, and helps with recovery after a heart attack.
Effects on Skin Conditions
Chronic inflammation is often the case of atopic dermatitis (AD or eczema) and acne which can be improved by introducing hemp seeds to your diet. Studies have shown that hemp seed oil has helped people with eczema and acne.
Moreover, the homeostasis of the immune system is dependent on how well-balanced the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are. In the case of hemp seeds, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in hemp seeds is 3:1, which is considered optimal. Therefore, introducing hemp seeds in your diet can affect the immune responses in the body, relieve dry skin, improve itchiness, and uncomfortable symptoms of medical skin conditions.
Effects on Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune condition where the immune system attacks and causes inflammation to the joints in the body. A 2014 study concluded that hemp seed oil may have anti-rheumatic effects and help patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, although more research needs to be done on the subject.
Effects on PMS Symptoms and Menopause
GLA, or gamma-linolenic acid, is an essential fatty acid which can be found in hemp seeds and affects the production of prostaglandin E1. Prostaglandin E1 reduces the PMS symptoms in women by reducing the effects of prolactin. One study showed that taking 1 gram of essential fatty acids (with 210 mg of GLA) significantly decreased the symptoms of PMS including breast and pain tenderness, irritability, depression and anxiety, and fluid retention. The gamma-linoleic acid found in hemp seeds can also help regulate the hormonal imbalances as a result of menopause.
Effects on Digestion
To have good digestive health, you need fiber in your system, and hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble fiber (20%) and insoluble fiber (80%), which is important for both digestion and healthy weight loss. Soluble fiber helios regulate the blood sugar levels and the cholesterol levels in the body, while insoluble fiber helps bulk up the stool and reduces the risk of diabetes. Keep in mind that hemp hearts contain little fiber since the shell has been removed.
Conclusion and How You Can Add Hemp Seeds to Your Diet
Hemp seeds are an incredible superfood that contains high levels of antioxidants, healthy fats, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins that can help promote good health. The shells contain a significant amount of fiber (keep in mind that some hemp seed shells may contain trace amounts of THC) which promotes good digestive health.
You can add hemp seeds to your diet by:
- Sprinkling them on top of cereal, yogurt, or salads;
- Adding them to smoothies;
- Using them in baked goods;
- Consuming hemp milk and hemp protein powder.
If you decide to use whole hemp seeds, make sure that you’re using seeds with THC levels under 0.3%, which is the legal limit for hemp products in the US under federal law.
Farinon, B., Molinari, R., Costantini, L., & Merendino, N. (2020). The seed of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition. Nutrients, 12(7), 1935. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12071935