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eating hemp seeds changed my life

Eating hemp seeds changed my life
According to a March 2018 review published in the journal Phytochemistry Reviews, hemp seeds were one of the five grains of ancient China. They were an important part of Chinese diets until about the 10th century. Other old-world cultures also recognized hemp seeds’ nutritional benefits. In Europe, whole hemp seeds (including the hulls), were eaten during times of famine. Today, they’ve been rediscovered as a powerful source of nutrients and phytochemicals that have health-promoting benefits.

Shelled Hemp Seed S >

About the Reviewer:

Janet Renee, MS, RD

Janet Renee has over a decade of experience as a registered dietitian. Renee attended the University of California, Berkeley and holds an M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics.

About the Author:

Anne Danahy MS RDN

Anne Danahy MS RDN is a Scottsdale-based health writer and integrative nutritionist. She specializes in women’s health, healthy aging, and chronic disease prevention and management. Anne works with individuals and groups, as well as brands and the media to educate and inspire her audience to eat better, age gracefully, and live more vibrantly. Anne holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Science in food and nutrition from Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Visit her at her health and nutrition blog: CravingSomethingHealthy.com or AnneDanahy.com

Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts in their hulled form, are a trendy health food that’s actually been around for centuries. Whether you sprinkle, stir or eat them straight, these tiny, nutty-flavored seeds have powerful properties. Contrary to what you might think, though, instead of getting you high, hemp seeds can help get you healthy. Like other plant foods, they have many nutritional benefits, but there are also a few hemp seed side effects.

What Are Hemp Seeds?

Shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, come from the Cannabis sativa L. plant. While it’s related to the marijuana plant, this variety is grown for industrial and nutritional uses. The seeds of the Cannabis sativa L. plant have extremely low levels of THC, so they don’t have the psychoactive effects of recreational marijuana.

According to a March 2018 review published in the journal Phytochemistry Reviews, hemp seeds were one of the five grains of ancient China. They were an important part of Chinese diets until about the 10th century. Other old-world cultures also recognized hemp seeds’ nutritional benefits. In Europe, whole hemp seeds (including the hulls), were eaten during times of famine. Today, they’ve been rediscovered as a powerful source of nutrients and phytochemicals that have health-promoting benefits.

Hemp Seeds Nutrition

It’s no wonder that hemp seeds were a staple food back in the day. These tiny seeds are packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber and numerous vitamins and minerals. In fact, the National Hemp Association touts them as being more nutritious than any other edible plant food grown on earth.

Technically a nut, hemp seeds’ nutrition content surpasses that of many other nuts and seeds. According to the USDA, a 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds provides about 10 grams of protein, 15 grams of healthy omega-rich fats and 3 grams of carbs. Hemp seeds’ nutrition profile also includes magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, calcium and fiber. In addition, they have been identified as a source of various antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids and flavanols.

The Protein in Hemp Seeds

Hulled hemp seeds are rich in protein, and they’re especially high in the amino acid arginine, according to a still often-cited 2010 study in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Unlike many other plant foods, the protein in hemp seeds provides all nine of the essential amino acids, so they’re considered a nutritionally complete protein source. In addition to their excellent amino acid profile, another bonus is that the protein in hemp seeds is easy for most people to digest.

The 10 grams of protein in a 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds is about the same amount you’d get from 1 1/2 ounces of peanuts, 2 small eggs or a little over a half cup of lentils. Hemp seeds are an especially easy way to boost the protein content of your meal if you’re trying to cut back on meat, because they pack a lot of protein into a small serving. Try sprinkling them on cereal, yogurt or a salad as a delicious and nutty-tasting garnish.

The Fats in Hemp Seeds

Most of the calories in hemp seeds come from fat, but it’s the good-for-you unsaturated kind. Hemp seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids — fats that you must eat because your body can’t make them. These include linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid, and alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Hemp seeds also contain a more rare type of omega-6 fat called gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Because they are high in fat, hemp seeds can also be high in calories. According to the USDA, a 3-tablespoon serving of shelled hemp seeds contains 166 calories. Even though they’re healthy calories, they can add up quickly if you overdo them.

Hemp Seed Side Effects

According to Michigan Medicine, most people tolerate hemp seeds without negative side effects. In fact, because of their nutrients, hemp seed side effects may be positive rather than harmful. The healthy fats in hemp seeds may be helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation and preventing platelets from becoming too sticky and forming plaques.

Because of the anti-inflammatory properties of their GLA, hemp seeds may also improve symptoms associated with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

Sometimes foods can interact with medications, but according to Michigan Medicine, there are no known interactions between hemp seeds and medications. However, because the fats in hemp seeds have anti-platelet activity, eating large amounts may increase the risk of bleeding if you take blood-thinning medications.

Another potential hemp seeds side effect, especially if you eat them in large amounts, is loose stools or diarrhea. One additional rare, but possible, hemp seeds side effect is the small risk that they contain higher than expected amounts of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana.

Risk of Hemp Seed Allergy

It’s not very common to have a hemp seeds allergy, but it certainly is possible, and it may be one of the more serious hemp seeds side effects. An article in the February 2016 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology detailed a case series of five patients who had a hemp seeds allergy that resulted in anaphylaxis after eating the seeds. If you have a hemp seeds allergy, be aware that they may be used in commercially baked products like bread, cereals, crackers and snack bars, so always read food labels carefully.

Who Should Eat Hemp Seeds?

Anyone without a hemp seed allergy should be able to eat them and enjoy various health benefits. Research published in October 2018 in the journal Food Chemistry showed that the antioxidants in hemp seeds have the ability to fight oxidative stress and protect cells from damage — something everyone can benefit from. The authors suggest that hemp seeds should be considered a functional food because of their wide range of health benefits.

Sprinkling some hemp seeds into a meal is an easy way to bump up your beneficial fats, protein and fiber. Their omega-3 and essential fats may also reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, help keep your brain sharp and your weight in check.

Eating hemp seeds changed my life
Hemp seeds are also a healthful source of vitamin E and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Health benefits of hemp seeds

Although hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, they do not produce a mind-altering effect.

These small, brown seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and healthful fatty acids, including omega-3s and omega-6s. They have antioxidant effects and may reduce symptoms of numerous ailments, improving the health of the heart, skin, and joints.

In this article, we look at the various benefits of hemp seeds and provide tips for adding them to the diet.

Nutritional benefits of hemp seeds

These seeds are full of nutritious compounds, including:

1. Protein

Hemp seeds contain almost as much protein as soybeans. In every 30 grams (g) of seeds, or about 3 tablespoons, there are 9.46 g of protein.

These seeds are a complete source of protein, meaning that they provide all nine essential amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins. The body cannot produce nine of these acids, so a person must absorb them through the diet.

Relatively few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein, making hemp seeds a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Hemp seeds are especially rich in an amino acid called arginine, which has benefits for heart health.

2. Unsaturated fats

The health benefits of polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are becoming increasingly well known.

Hemp seeds are a great source of essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3.

The body cannot produce essential fatty acids, and the body must absorb them from the diet. They are crucial for long-term health.

The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is also important.

In general, people tend to eat too many omega-6s and too few omega-3s, but adding hemp seeds to the diet may help to promote a balance.

According to results of a 2015 animal study, incorporating hemp seeds and hemp seed oil to hens’ diet led to eggs with increased levels of omega-3s in the yolks and a more healthful omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Also, hemp seeds are low in saturated fats and contain no trans fats.

3. Fiber

Much of the fiber in a hemp seed lies in its outer hull, or shell. If possible, purchase hemp seeds with the hulls intact.

However, even without the shells, hemp seeds are a god source pf fiber, with three tablespoons containing approximately 1.2 g of fiber.

Consuming enough fiber every day can:

4. Minerals and vitamins

Hemp seeds contain an impressive array of vitamins and minerals and are especially rich in:

They are also a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins, including:

Health benefits of hemp seeds

Alongside the nutritional benefits, some research suggests that hemp seeds have a wide range of positive health effects. They may:

5. Protect the brain

A study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that hemp seed extract has antioxidant effects in lab tests. These effects may result from the seeds’ cannabidiol (CBD) content.

Results of a review from 2018 suggest that CBD and other compounds in the seeds may have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, effects and may also help to regulate the immune system.

The review suggests that, because of these potential properties, CBD may help with neurological conditions, including:

6. Boost heart health

The medical community believes that omega-3 fatty acids improve the health of the heart and reduce the risk of issues such as arrhythmias and heart disease.

Hemp seeds contain high levels of omega-3s and a healthful ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

The seeds also contain high levels of arginine, an amino acid that turns into nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is essential for artery and vein dilation, and it helps keep blood vessel walls smooth and elastic.

Lowering blood pressure, eating a healthful diet, and participating in varied forms of exercise may help to decrease the risk of heart failure.

7. Reduce inflammation

The amount of omega-3s in hemp seeds and the seeds’ healthful omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can together help to reduce inflammation.

In addition, hemp seeds are a rich source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid which may also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Some studies on animals suggest that GLA can act as a potent anti-inflammatory. However, recent studies in humans suggest that the acid is not always effective.

A review in The European Journal of Pharmacology states that humans process GLA in a very complicated way, which may explain why the studies in humans produce more varied results than those on animals.

When looking at these studies, it is important to note that researchers usually use high concentrations of hemp seed extracts and that eating the seeds may produce less dramatic effects.

Reducing inflammation may help manage the symptoms of chronic diseases, such as:

  • metabolic syndrome
  • type 2 diabetes
  • arthritis
  • heart disease
  • non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease

8. Improve skin conditions

Atopic dermatitis (AD) and acne can both result from chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory compounds in hemp seeds may help.

Among other possible dietary causes, acne may be linked to a deficiency in omega-3s. The high omega-3 content in hemp seeds may help to manage and reduce acne symptoms.

A 2018 review explored the effects of dietary changes on skin diseases. While the authors found evidence that eating more omega-3s may improve symptoms of acne, determining the extent of the effects will require more research.

The authors also note that prebiotics and plant fibers may help to manage symptoms of AD. Hemp seeds are a rich source of plant fiber.

9. Relieve rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. It causes the immune system to attack its own tissues, which leads to inflammation in the joints.

In 2014, research conducted in human cells suggested that hemp seed oil could have anti-rheumatic effects.

However, a 2018 review found a lack of conclusive evidence to suggest that cannabinoids could effectively treat rheumatic diseases. The authors noted that more research is needed.

Nutritional profile of hemp seeds

Hemp seeds contain plenty of protein, healthful fatty acids, and fiber.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 116 calories and the following nutrients:

Protein 9.47 g
Carbohydrates 2.60 g
Fat 1.20 g
Total fatty acids 14.62 g
Monounsaturated fatty acids 1.62 g
Polyunsaturated fat 11.43 g
Saturated fatty acids 1.38 g

Hemp seeds are also a healthful source of vitamin E and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

How to add hemp seeds to the diet

When considering the results of studies, it is important to note that researchers often use hemp seed extract, rather than whole hemp seeds.

People can purchase shelled, ground, or split seeds. To remove the seeds’ hard outer shells at home, a person can use a mortar and pestle or a food processor.

Whole seeds act as a bulking agent, and they also add fiber to the diet, which can aid digestion.

Try incorporating hemp seeds into the diet by:

  • sprinkling whole or ground seeds on cereal or yogurt
  • adding the seeds to smoothies
  • baking with hemp seeds and others rich in omega-3s
  • making hemp milk at home using whole seeds
  • sprinkling hemp seeds, along with other seeds or nuts, on a salad

People can find hemp seeds in some supermarkets, health food stores, and online.

Online stores also offer other hemp products, such as hemp milk, which may be fortified with extra nutrients, and hemp protein powder, which is a plant-based alternative to whey protein powder.

Risks

Although hemp seeds come from the cannabis plant, they ideally contain no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient in cannabis.

Hemp seeds will not produce a mind-altering effect.

However, athletes and others who undergo drug testing should be aware that consuming hemp products can, in some cases, lead to failed urine tests. The level of THC in any hemp-based product depends on the suppliers and the manufacturing process.

In Canada, the production of hemp seeds is tightly regulated to prevent cross contamination of THC from the cannabis plant.

A legal principle in the U.S. prohibits people from growing hemp seeds with THC concentrations higher than 0.3 percent. The U.S. government also strictly regulates the importation of hemp seeds and hemp-based products.

Takeaway

Hemp seeds have a rich nutrition profile. They contain high levels of antioxidants, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins.

The shells add fiber to the diet, and grinding the seeds helps the body to absorb more of the other nutrients.

Some research has suggested links between hemp seeds and health benefits, but these studies tend to use extracts with high concentrations.

While there are potential health benefits to consuming hemp seeds, avoid eating excessive amounts. There is evidence that some seeds contain levels of THC that exceed the legal limit.

The most healthful choice is to eat a varied diet that contains a wide range of nutrients.

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Additional information

Article last reviewed by Tue 11 September 2018.

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