From chia to flaxseed, I love using nutritious seeds in salads, as toppings on soups and stews, and in baking. Today, I’m focusing on another super seed – the hemp seed! I wanted to share why the hemp seeds have so many health benefits and a few tips on how to eat and cook with hemp seeds.
When it comes to some of the most nutritious pantry staples, I know it’s true that big things often come in small packages. I love nutrition boosts like hemp seeds and want to share why its a must-have ingredient for your paleo diet (or any diet, really).
What are hemp seeds?
Hemp seeds come from the plant Cannibus sativa L, which is not exactly the same as the marijuana plant, although they are very similar and are part of the same Cannibus family. Let’s get one thing clear: hemp seeds will not get you high and are perfectly safe to eat. This is because hemp contains more CBD (or cannibidiol) than it does THC. To clarify, hemp seed is only about 0.3-1.5% THC. This means that it has little to no psychoactive effects.
The hemp seed is a simple dry fruit with a hard shell, kind of like the sunflower or sesame seeds. It has a mild, nutty flavour. The seed is one of the most versatile plants and is used for much more than just food. Most notably, hemp is used as fibre or textile and has been used that way for 10,000 years or more. Now, it’s sold hulled and ready-to-eat as a health food too.
When it comes to eating hemp seeds, they can be consumed raw, sprouted, or in powder form. Hemp is a natural plant protein with a full amino acid profile. They are high in fat – healthy fats – like many other seeds. They’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals. Hemp seeds fall into the super food category with ease, and they stand their ground!
Hemp seed sustainability
Before we dig into the nutrition of hemp, I want to address an equally as important point when choosing the foods we eat. Each choice we make in our diet should consider both our health and the planet, and I want to give hemp some credit where credit is due.
Hemp is a particularly easy plant to grow. It grows in varying climates with ease, and it can grow in pretty tight spaces so it doesn’t demand a ton of room. Unlike some plant harvesting, we don’t need to create more space to grow hemp, making it a very sustainable corp.
Moreover, hemp is resilient. It grows like a weed (no pun intended). It’s resistant to harmful pesticides so less are used on the crops. This means that less nitrogen ends up in our oceans which causes hypoxic conditions where fish can’t live and algae blooms in abundance, robbing all the oxygen. Oh, and hemp can even absorb toxins from the soil through a thing called phytoremediation. It’s carbon-negative and can even be turned into biofuel! You can feel darn good about contributing to the hemp industry.
Hemp seed nutrition
Let’s get to know exactly what each tiny hemp seed is comprised of first. These are the notable macronutrient and micronutrient measures per 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds.
Calories: 174 calories, Fat: 13.5 grams, Protein: 11 grams, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Fibre: 2 grams, Iron: 16% DV, Vitamin E: 21% DV, Phosphorous: 48% DV, Magnesium: 48% DV, Zinc: 23% DV. Not too bad for a little seed, hey? They are both satiating and nutrient-dense.
The benefits of hemp seeds
Now, let’s get into why hemp seeds are so darn good for you! This plant-based food is a fabulous source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Gram for gram, it fits the ‘super food’ bill with a strong case.
They’re a great seed for anyone on the paleo diet, the keto diet, or eating plant-based vegan or vegetarian diets.
They contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. 30% of hemp seed nutrition comes from quality, good-for-you fats. They contain both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, promoting a good balance of the two in our bodies.
This is essential to overall health for numerous reasons. An imbalance can cause inflammation and degrade immune response. Fatty acid balance is especially important for those with autoimmune disease and leaky gut.
Those fatty acids are essential to good skin health, and healthy brain!
Hemp is a fabulous source of plant-based protein. 25% of hemp seed nutrition comes from plant-based protein. It’s definitely my top pick for plant-based protein supplements. 2-3 tablespoons add a whopping 11 grams of protein to a meal easily. You can get the protein from the whole seed or hemp protein powder.
With protein, it’s not always quantity that matters – it’s quality. You’ll be pleased to find out that hemp protein contains all essential amino acids, making it just as beneficial as any source of animal protein. And, unlike many other nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, this plant protein is very easy to digest.
They’re great for heart health. Amino acid arginine dilates blood vessels and decreases hypertension. It’s also important for protein synthesis, leading to decreased levels of C-reactive protein which can help you manage systemic inflammation that can later lead to heart disease.
It contains plenty of GLA. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) – present in hemp seeds – helps to flow the production of prostaglandin which in turn aids in the management of the emotional and physical effects of prolactin (which can cause PMS symptoms). Thus, GLA helps to balance hormones.
Due to its ability to keep your hormones regulated and working properly, it can also reduce the pervasive and unwanted symptoms of menopause. GLA can also positively impact obesity, diabetes, heart disease risk, ADHD, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. This is likely due to their anti-inflammatory nature.
Hemp promotes healthy digestion. Whole, shelled hemp seeds are an abundant source of soluble fibre which can aid digestion, keep gut flora variable and healthy, and manage blood sugar levels (which are, in essence, controlled by digestion).
Hemp seeds are a great weight loss food. I love foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, and fibre for weight loss. These foods are essential to the diet because they promote satiety, keep you full, and keep you healthy. Starting the day off with hemp protein or seeds mixed into a smoothie, 3-4 tablespoons atop a bowl of yoghurt, or in an energy ball is a great habit that can promote fat loss because it keeps appetite at bay.
How to eat hemp seeds
Like I mentioned above, you can easily add hemp seeds to salads, smoothies, and yoghurt for a deliciously nutty nutrition boost. Like with most nuts and seeds, you can even make your own dairy-free milk from the seeds. You can even swap out your protein powder for a hemp protein powder which comes unflavoured or flavoured.
- Protein powder. Blend it into smoothies or use a flavoured blend in a blender bottle for a quick pre-gym or post-gym boost. Hemp protein is nearly as bioavailable as whey protein (the most bioavailable) and is both plant-based and paleo-friendly. There are lots of brands of hemp seed protein powder out there, I quite like this one or this one. In Australian, you can find hemp seed protein online on iHerb.com or at health food stores.
- Have them plain. It’s the least exciting option, but it definitely works. Hemp seeds are naturally quite palatable with a rich flavour and texture that resembles a creamy nut like cashew or macadamia. Have 2-4 tablespoons to boost fat, protein, and fibre. This is the brand of hemp seeds I really like (here is a link to iHerb in Australia).
- Add them as a topping. Smoothie bowls and yoghurt bowls plus salads and other savoury dishes can stand a little hemp action. The nutty flavour pairs well with lots of foods.
- Use them in baked goods. Many baked goods can be tweaked to your liking. That’s where I love to see super foods hiding out! Use them in place of or in conjunction with other seeds or blend them into energy bars for seamless nutrition. Try my hemp seed Anzac biscuits here.
Try these hemp seed recipes
You can also use hemp seeds for a wide variety of recipes both sweet and savoury. They’re a good ingredient for grain-free crusts and baked goods. No matter your craving, you can include them in your diet with these paleo hemp seed recipe ideas.
Hemp seed Anzac biscuits from Eat Drink Paleo
Homemade hemp milk from Minimalist Baker
Hemp protein pancakes from The Fit Cookie
Vegan hemp seed Parmesan from Yup It’s Vegan
Hemp heart porridge from The Healthful Pursuit
Paleo coconut & hemp bars from Running on Real Food
Keto oatmeal from Keto Connect
Hemp seed tabouli from Oh She Glows
Raw hemp chocolates from Unconventional Baker
Cauliflower & hemp burger from Veggies Don’t Bite
Do you include hemp hearts or hemp seeds/oil in your diet? I hope you understand the benefits of this amazing super food better now, and you are inspired to add a spoonful or two to your daily routine.