Hemp hearts are the newest trend in superfoods, packed with protein, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. But what are hemp hearts and their benefits?
Hemp hearts are deshelled or “de-hulled” hemp seeds. They only have trace amounts of THC, so they are non-psychoactive and won’t get you high. Hemp hearts are highly nutritious and have been used as a food source and as an alternative medicine for thousands of years. It wasn’t until prohibition that they became associated with the “drug” marijuana and so criminalized and stigmatized. But since the rise of cannabis legalization and the 2014 Farm Bill, which eased restriction on growing industrial hemp in the U.S., hemp hearts are back with a vengeance.
Hemp hearts have a subtle, nutty flavor, comparable to pine nuts. They’re an excellent source of plant protein, with over 25 percent of their total caloric value coming from highly digestible protein. For some perspective, other plant protein sources, like chia seeds and flaxseeds, only have 16 to 18 percent protein, so hemp seeds are a winner.
Plus, hemp seeds are one of the only “complete protein” plants that contain all nine essential amino acids. Many high protein plants, like nuts and legumes, are missing the amino acid lysine and so are less digestible. Quinoa is one of the only other plants that contain all nine essential amino acids.
About 30 percent of hemp hearts’ calories come from fat and they are especially rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Their 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is considered optimal and has tons of health benefits we’ll explain later on.
Not to mention, hemp hearts are packed with other important vitamins and minerals, including:
Because hemp hearts are so rich in amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, they have tons of health benefits, from weight loss to heart health. To be clear, these are different medicinal benefits than the marijuana plant, which helps people through the interactions of cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Because of the high levels of fiber and protein in hemp hearts, they can help curb appetite and keep you full for longer. They’re a great addition to weight loss plans because they’re very nutritious without a ton of excess calories. Some nutritionists recommend adding them to your breakfast or lunch to prevent hunger and snacking throughout the day.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world. But, because of hemp hearts’ high amino-acid content, especially arginine, they can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, a 2006 study on rats found a hemp seed diet can even help recovery from a heart attack because of the rich fatty acid content in hemp seeds.
Because of hemp hearts’ high omega-3 and omega-6 levels, they may help people with eczema and psoriasis, as well as dry and itchy skin. Therefore, eating hemp seeds can benefit the skin, as well as rubbing hemp seed oil externally. Plus, hemp soap made from hemp seed oil is also becoming popular for those with sensitive skin and skin conditions. You can even make your own hemp skin care products by mixing hemp seed oil with shea butter or coconut oil.
Hemp hearts’ high level of soluble and insoluble fiber can benefit digestive health. What’s more, a 2011 study found hemp seed taken in pill form helped to alleviate constipation in participants.
Hemp hearts may even benefit those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. A 2014 study that looked at hemp seed oil concluded that its intake may have anti-arthritic effects because of its rich polyunsaturated fatty acid content. This study also explained hemp seed has been used for centuries in traditional Korean and Chinese medicine for rheumatoid arthritis, as well as inflammation and eczema.
Because hemp hearts are a great source of magnesium, they could be beneficial in reducing headaches and muscle cramping. That’s because magnesium has been shown to reduce these conditions and to help muscles relax. Because you lose a ton of magnesium from sweating, adding hemp hearts to your post-workout routine could also help, especially if you experience muscle cramping.
Hemp hearts are rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which may be effective in treating women with PMS symptoms, including breast pain and tenderness, depression, and irritability. That’s because many of those symptoms may be caused by the hormone prolactin, and the GLA in hemp hearts can reduce the effects of prolactin according to this 2011 study.
Researchers believe GLA helps with menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, as well. Exactly how is still unclear, but GLA may play a part in regulating hormonal imbalances and inflammation associated with menopause.
There are tons of easy ways to incorporate hemp hearts into your diet that you should consider, especially if you’re a vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or have a nut allergy. One popular method is by consuming hemp milk, which you can make at home with hemp seeds. From that hemp milk, you can also make hemp yogurt, which is especially handy if you’re a vegan or have a lactose intolerance.
Many people enjoy adding hemp hearts to smoothies and salads, but there are tons of fun hemp seed recipes. For example, you can replace the pine nuts in pesto with hemp hearts, which is great for those with a nut allergy. There’s also hemp seed butter which is comparable to peanut or almond butter. Nutritionist Julie Daniluk suggests adding hemp seeds to soups instead of dairy for creaminess in this article. You can even add hemp hearts to hummus.
Plus, there are brands making hemp seed snacks or adding hemp hearts to other healthy snacks, like granola bars. Hemp hearts are starting to pop up in vegetarian and healthy food restaurants around the U.S., including juice bars and health-conscious cafes.
Hemp hearts are the next big thing in healthy eating. They’re delicious and nutritious, so expect to start seeing a lot more of them around. How do you use hemp hearts? Let us know in a comment below.