Hemp seeds have been used as medicine for hundreds years and unlike their naughty counterpart, weed, have been legal for a lot longer. When we told my dad that we eat hemp seeds he had a bit of a freak-out, but they are perfectly safe and super healthy.
Yes, the hemp plant is the Cannabis Sativa plant just like the marijuana plant is, but unlike marijuana, there is little to no THC, the psychoactive compound, in hemp.
You may have heard of hemp CBD oil which is derived from hemp plants specifically grown to contain a lot of CBD which is the healing compound in the cannabis plant.
Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil, in general, contain very little CBD, but they are still an awesome addition to your diet and they are a fraction of the cost!
The Benefits of Hemp Seeds
I don’t want to get too “sciency” here but the fact is that there are some really good reasons (that are science-backed) why you should include hemp seeds in your food regularly.
Hemp Seeds Boost Omega 3 Levels
Hemp seeds contain a mix of fatty acids. Some omega 3, omega 6, and what has been recognised as a new healthy fatty acid, SDA (Stearidonic Acid).
The main type of omega 3 in hemp seeds is ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), which converts to EPA and DHA, two very essential omega 3 fats, rather inefficiently.
For those of us that don’t eat fish or take algae supplements or use algal oil, this can prove very problematic in the long run
I will write a post in more detail about the various types of omega 3 fatty acids because they are so important to our health, but the short of it is that EPA helps to lower inflammation and DHA is essential to our brain health.
SDA, however, has been shown to convert to EPA more efficiently because it goes through its own separate conversion pathway. It effectively boosts blood levels of EPA and while it doesn’t have any impact on DHA, it still boosts your overall omega 3 level.
Hemp Seeds Can Lower Inflammation
You may have already guessed this considering the boost in EPA hemp seeds can give you, but, hemp seeds also contain GLA, also known as gamma-linolenic acid. GLA is a type of omega 6 fatty acid.
Too much omega 6, which is super common in modern day diets, can cause inflammation, but the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in hemp seeds is pretty good and the fact that GLA is present is awesome because GLA helps to lower inflammation.
This may be helpful especially for conditions like arthritis and it can even help to reduce PMS symptoms, woohoo! But keeping inflammation low is important for reducing your overall risk of diseases, so everyone benefits.
Hemp Seed Protein
If you are vegan or struggle with lactose intolerance which can make taking whey and casein protein supplements problematic, hemp seed protein is a great alternative.
It’s easy on your stomach and is, in fact, a complete protein source. It’s one of the few plant foods that contain all 20 amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It’s also often less processed than other protein supplements and you should have no problem finding sugar-free options.
For athletes and anyone who wants to boost their protein intake in a healthy way, this is what I would recommend. But I will remind you that protein is easy to get from your food, even for vegans and vegetarians.
Just using ground hemp seed powder in your food will be a helpful and affordable boost.
Hemp Seeds are High in Fibre
Hemp seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fibre which are essential for:
- Good digestion
- Keeping you regular
- Lowering high cholesterol levels
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- The stabilisation of blood sugar levels
Just note that if you want the benefits of fibre, hulled or shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, don’t contain fibre.
Antioxidants are important for getting rid of all the harmful free radicals generated by our bodies daily and those that we make due to poor lifestyle choices or the fact that if you stay in a city your are breathing polluted air every day.
These free radicals speed up ageing and increase our risk of disease, so we need all the help we can get. Hemp seeds contain chlorophyll and vitamin E which are both excellent antioxidants.
Vitamins and Minerals
Hemp seeds contain quite a few vitamins and minerals. You can’t use hemp seeds as a vitamin and mineral supplement because the quantity of these nutrients in a serving of hemp seeds which is about 20g (two tablespoons), won’t be enough to cover all your needs. But, every little bit counts!
Per 30g, here are some of the higher nutrient contents of hemp seeds:
- Vitamin B1 (26% DV)
- Vitamin B3 (17% DV)
- Copper (24% DV)
- Iron (13% DV)
- Magnesium (52% DV)
- Zinc (20% DV)
- Protein (19% DV)
- Fibre (1.2g- women need 25g and men 38g per day)
Awesome Ways to Eat Hemp Seeds
The absolute best form of hemp seeds is ground hemp seeds because the nutrients are easier for your stomach to digest when that’s the case since the shells are broken down already, but whole hemp seeds are also great. Just make sure you chew them properly.
Here are some ideas on how to use them:
- Use the hemp powder in smoothies.
- Sprinkle hemp seeds over your salads, cereal, and even desserts (they have a slightly earthy nutty flavour).
- Add hemp powder to soups, pasta sauce, stew, curry, etc.
- I even sprinkle some on my toast sometimes.
- Bake with them.
Hemp seeds go well with sweet and savoury flavours so you’ll find that both the whole seeds and ground seeds are very versatile. Unlike ground flax seeds, ground hemp seeds are still quite grainy, so bear that in mind when you decide what to use it in and how much to use.
More Hemp Seed Products
If hemp seeds aren’t your thing, depending on where you are in the world you can get hemp seed oil, hemp milk, and hemp butter.
Here in South Africa, I’ve seen hemp seed oil, but not the milk or the butter, though I will keep looking. We even have dagga (weed) beer now which is infused with hemp oil, but no THC. Alcohol, sadly, is terrible for you, so if you’re after the health benefits, I would keep the beer to a minimum.
I thought I should also mention that you should be sure to double check what you are getting. Cannabutter, for example, is definitely stuff that will get you high. So make sure that when you select oil or butter that you double check the THC content to be sure.
Seeds are a great way to boost your health. The humble hemp seed that has been used for centuries and has sometimes been labelled as evil by those who thought they were going to get you high has proven to be amazing.
I will write a series of articles on the benefits and uses of seeds because they are often an overlooked source of nutrition. Enjoy your hemp seed yummies and let me know how it went.
If you’ve been using hemp seeds for a while now or have tried any other hemp products such as the oil, butter, or milk, let me know what you thought.
- Hemp seeds: Sweetlouise (Pixabay)
- Meusli: Milada Vigerova (Upsplash)