Get The Most From Hemp Seeds and See How They Benefit Your Health!

Fear not, hemp seeds won’t get you high—but they do offer a hefty nutritional uptick. Although hemp is a variety of the cannabis (marijuana) plant, hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of the mind-altering tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC. (1) The seeds—technically a nut—are exceptionally nutritious and rich in healthy fats, protein, and various minerals, making hemp seeds a superfood.

Did you know?
Note that unhulled hemp seeds are too difficult to digest, so when you see a bag at the store labeled “hemp seeds,” what you’re actually buying is the soft inner kernels, also known as hemp hearts. (2)

8 reasons to add hemp seeds in your diet

1. High in protein

Hemp seeds are a protein magnet, as roughly one-fourth of the calories they provide come from protein, impressive for a nut. (3) By weight, hemp seeds provide a comparable amount of protein as beef and lamb, with 30 grams of hemp seeds, or 2–3 tablespoons, providing a whopping 11 grams of protein.

hemp seed in a wooden bowl and on a wooden spoon

Hemp seeds, a boon to vegetarians, pack in a complete protein in a small, concentrated, serving size.

Hemp seeds, rare for plant-based food, are considered a complete protein source, which means that they provide all the essential amino acids, including lysine, which plants tend to lack. (4) Your body cannot produce essential amino acids and must obtain them from your diet. For vegetarians and vegans, hemp seeds are a particularly valuable addition to a plant-based diet.

2. Reduce your risk of heart disease

Experts in the medical community believe that hemp seeds, because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, improve heart health. (5) Another benefit of the seeds is their high levels of arginine, an amino acid that turns into nitric oxide, a chemical that is vital for a robust cardiovascular system.

A large 2005 study found that in over 13,000 people, increased arginine intake corresponded with decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker linked to heart disease. The study concluded that individuals may be able to lower their risk for cardiovascular disease by consuming more arginine-rich foods such as nuts and fish. (6) The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in hemp seeds may also be associated with reduced inflammation.

3. Improve your skin

GLA not only acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, but it also encourages skin cells to regenerate quicker. (7) Plus, by reducing water loss through the skin barrier, it helps with dry skin, a nagging issue with conditions such as psoriasis. (8)

The anti-inflammatory compounds in hemp seeds may help with atopic dermatitis (AD) and acne, both of which can be the result of chronic inflammation. One study found that dietary hempseed oil improved the symptoms and appearance of clinical atopic dermatitis after 20 weeks. (9) Even if you don’t have a serious skin condition, hemp seed oil can still be a helpful resource. Used topically, it can balance out oily skin and assist in regulating the skin’s oil production. (10)

4. Ease PMS and menopause symptoms

Researchers believe that PMS, which affects 80 percent of women of reproductive age, is caused by sensitivity to the hormone, prolactin. Hemp seeds’ secret weapon—GLA—has been linked to reducing the effect of prolactin. In a 2011 study on women with PMS, taking 1 gram of essential fatty acids (including 210 mg of GLA) per day resulted in a significant decrease in symptoms such as bloating, irritability, and depression. (11)

5. Help with weight loss

Full of fiber, hemp seeds (especially unhulled ones) are great for keeping you full for hours. Fibrous foods are the key to keeping that mid-morning hunger at bay. Just be sure to drink plenty of water to help keep that fiber from getting stuck in your GI tract.

woman and man sleeping in bed

A strategic serving of magnesium, which hemp is abundant in, can help support healthy sleep habits.

6. Support healthy sleep

Hemp is loaded with magnesium, a mineral that supports deep, restorative sleep relaxes muscles. (12) Consume a serving of hemp seeds a few hours before bed and you’ll be set up for a night of sound sleep.

7. Prevent anemia

Although many people think of red meat as their go-to source for iron, many plant-based foods are surprisingly good sources of this essential mineral. Hemp, chock full of heme (plant-based) iron, is a wonderful way to regularly incorporate iron into your diet. Just a few tablespoons of hemp hearts a day can help counteract anemia (iron deficiency). (13)

8. Boost your immune system

Hemp seeds provide a motherlode of nutrients, including vitamin E and a bevy of minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals and fighting the good fight to stave off invading bacteria and viruses. Zinc supports immunity at a cellular level and is essential for antibody production. One ounce of hemp seeds contains three-quarters of the daily recommended Vitamin E and nearly a third of the daily recommended zinc. (14)

How to add hemp seeds to your diet

If you want to try hemp out but are not sure of how to get started, here are four ways to incorporate hemp seeds into your diet.

Hemp hearts

Nutritionally dense, hemp hearts have a slightly nutty taste, akin to pine nuts. A tablespoon or so added to your oatmeal or your smoothie packs a significant protein boost. They work well on top of savory food too—at dinner or lunch, sprinkle them on top of your salad, grain bowl, or pasta.

hemp milk in a cup with hemp seeds next to it

Get creative with hemp milk, adding it to porridge or even experiment with using it to make excellent non-dairy cheese.

Hemp milk

If alternative milk is your thing, hemp milk is rich in high-quality plant protein, healthy fats, and minerals. Use it on its own, or add to hot and cold cereal, baked goods and smoothies.

Hemp butter

If you love experimenting with nut butters, consider adding hemp butter to your repertoire. Be prepared for its dark green color, which results from the rich content of chlorophyll, a powerful antioxidant.

Hemp seed oil

Hemp oil should be used as a finishing oil, rather than a cooking oil since it’s too sensitive to be heated and high temps can destroy the nutritional benefits of the omega fatty acids. (15) Experiment with using it to make salad dressings, flavor up a grain bowl, or use as sauce for grilled vegetables .

The bottom line

Two tablespoons of hemp seed have 111 calories and almost 10 grams of fat. It’s the equivalent of a dietary bargain, packed as it is with healthy fats, six grams protein, 240 mg of potassium, and almost 25 percent of your daily iron needs (adult males and women over 50). (16)

You would be hard-pressed to find another food this nutrient-dense, so keep sprinkling the seeds—on almost anything you can think of—to add a boost with multiple benefits.

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