Hemp Seeds: All Hype or True Superfood?
The cannabis plant has been growing across the world for centuries, and its many parts have been used to make medicine, clothing, housing, and food. While many know the plant for its psychoactive qualities, there is a form of cannabis that you don’t want to smoke. It’s called hemp, and it can’t get you high, but hemp seeds will taste awesome sprinkled over your salad.
Hemp seeds are becoming a staple in many health food recipes these days, from smoothies to raw food bars. That’s because they’re packed full of minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, and other compounds that can help treat all kinds of health issues.
But are hemp seeds really a superfood? Or, are the seeds just another fad trying to ride on the popularity of all things cannabis? Read on to learn more.
What Are Hemp Seeds?
The seeds of the hemp plant are a popular food source known for their protein content and multiple health benefits. The seeds are harvest from mature industrial hemp plants, and it is often sold after being shelled, roasted, or hulled into hemp meal. Hemp seeds can also be pressed into hemp oil, which is used in salad dressings, baking, and cooking.
Is Hemp the Same as Marijuana or Cannabis?
There is a lot of confusion about the difference between hemp and marijuana. The hemp plant and the marijuana plant are not the same, and hemp seeds do not come from the same plants that produce ‘weed’.
While, taxonomically speaking, hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, there are enormous differences in the genetics and physical qualities of the two plants as they are actually grown. Hemp seeds are the seeds that come from a specific variety of the cannabis sativa plant that has no virtually no psychoactive components. The hemp variety of cannabis sativa tends to have a taller, sturdier stock, and, besides its seed, it’s grown for its fiber, stock, and for CBD (a non-psychoactive cousin to THC).
Can You Get High From Hemp Seeds?
You cannot get high from hemp seeds. Even if you eat a whole bag of hemp seeds, you will not get high. That’s because there is virtually no THC in hemp plants, and THC is the component in marijuana that gets you high.
Hemp plants are highly regulated by authorities and must undergo rigorous testing for THC. Any hemp plant that tests with THC levels higher than .3% can be confiscated and maybe even lead to legal charges. An average marijuana plant, on the other hand, can have THC levels of 20% or more.
The Nutritional Value of Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are known all over the world as a nutritionally dense food. Hemp seeds contain high values of many essential nutrients, like magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc. They also contain essential fatty acids (both omega-3s and omega-6s) in large amounts. One serving of the seeds contains 7.5 grams of Omega-6 and 3 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Hemp seeds are also an incredible source of protein, containing a full spectrum of essential amino acids. For this reason, vegans, vegetarians, and raw foodists often eat hemp seeds. Every three-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains complete grams of protein.
The Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Hemp’s many nutrients and compounds make it a powerful healing food. People use hemp seeds to help alleviate or treat all kinds of health and cosmetic issues.
Rich in GLA
Most people have not heard about GLA, but this essential fatty acid can have major anti-inflammatory effects. It’s been used in traditional medicines for this purpose for centuries.
GLA is short for gamma-linolenic acid. This fatty acid has been associated with skin health, weight loss, and even anti-cancer properties. Hemp seeds provide a hearty portion of GLA, and many people eat them to get the myriad health benefits that the nutrient provides.
Arthritis and Joint Pain
A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found some good news for those who suffer from arthritis. They were testing the old Chinese and Korean medicinal practice of using hemp seed to treat joint pain, and they concluded that it may really work.
The researchers found that hempseed oil lowered the survival rate of the cells that cause rheumatoid arthritis, and that it may even kill the cells outright.
Throwing some hemp seeds in with your morning oatmeal or your lunchtime salad may help you lose weight. That’s because hemp seeds are a natural appetite suppressant.
Foods that are high in fiber, like hemp, help to make you more satiated without having to eat as much. That means you stay fuller, longer. Combine this with the high protein and nutrient content of hemp seeds, and you have a powerful weight-loss food.
Hemp seeds’ high fiber content can help keep things moving along in your GI tract. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that a dose of 7.5 grams of hemp seed pills would relieve functional constipation. Doses as low as 2.5 grams were also effective, but less so.
Hemp seeds can also help to feed the healthy gut flora in your stomach. Hemp seed oil, like all dietary oils, may also help relieve constipation.
Hair, Skin, and Nails
A scientific study recently found powerful evidence to support hemp seed used for skin health. The study concluded that “dietary hempseed oil caused significant changes in plasma fatty acid profiles and improved clinical symptoms of atopic dermatitis.”
But it’s not just eczema that can be treated with hemp seeds and hemp seed oil. Hemp oil is often used in lip balms, lotions, and other skin care products. Dr. Bronner’s soap company even led a lawsuit against the government to support industrial hemp production, so that they could continue to use the vital ingredient in their soap.
Nail care and hair care products have also caught on to the power of hemp. So, next time you are looking for cosmetics, check the label and you might just see hemp oil in the list of ingredients.
If you think you may have cancer, or have been diagnosed with cancer, you should clearly follow a treatment plan that is made with a doctor. You may want to consider hemp seeds as part of that treatment plan.
That’s because hemp seeds have a perfect balance of omega-3 fats, GLA, and other fatty acids, which may be able to reduce inflammation and strengthen a compromised immune system.
Several studies have been done to look at the effects of hemp seeds on those undergoing treatment for cancer. One study found that hemp seeds may stop or reverse glioblastoma multiforme, which is a deadly brain cancer. Another study by researchers in Germany found that the cannabinoids in hemp seeds may be able to stop or delay the growth of cancer cells, especially in cases of lung cancer.
Hemp seeds are dense with heart-healthy nutrients and compounds. For one, they have a ton of fiber, which has been linked to cardiovascular health. They also have healthy fats, virtually no sugar, and may help reduce blood pressure.
Several studies have been done to examine hemp seeds’ effect on heart health. One study on rats found that hemp meal may help stop hypertension. Another study looked at the aggregate research on hemp seeds effects on cardiovascular health, and it concluded that “the data discussed above support the hypothesis that hempseed has the potential to beneficially influence heart disease.”
May Reduce Symptoms of PMS and Menopause
GLA, the anti-inflammatory fatty acid that was discussed earlier, can also help control the symptoms of PMS.
In one study of women who experience PMS, taking just one gram of essential fatty acids (which included 210 mg of GLA) per day helped to significantly reduce their symptoms. Since hemp seeds are loaded with GLA, they could be the perfect food to eat when you feel those PMS symptoms creeping in.
How To Use Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are generally sold in one of three forms: shelled, cold pressed into oil, or ground up into a help meal protein. Recently, hemp milk products have also come on the market. All of these hemp seed forms with provide a healthy food source.
It is generally believed that hemp seeds are most nutritious when they are eaten raw. Cooking or freezing the seeds may result in some nutrient loss.
Culinary Uses of Hemp Seed
Hemp seeds can be used in all kinds of cuisines to add flavor, protein, and a healthy punch of vitamins and fatty acids.
People add hemp seeds to their smoothies and sports nutrition drinks. They also spread them on yogurt, oatmeal, and salads. Hemp seeds can be baked into muffins or all kinds of other oven-fresh recipes.
Hemp seed oil is a great finishing oil (as opposed to a cooking oil) that can be used as the main ingredient in salad dressings, kinds of pasta, or other dishes that need some fatty, delicious sauce.
Hemp Seed Side Effects
Hemp seeds do not have any listed side effects. They are not psychoactive like marijuana seeds or flowers, and so there is no risk of overdose.
Oils and Digestion
As mentioned above, hemp seeds can help to alleviate constipation. But, sometimes things can move a little too far in the other direction. Because of their high fiber and oil content, there is a risk that people who are not used to consuming hemp seeds will experience diarrhea. If you are worried about this or experiencing diarrhea, try eating a smaller amount of the seeds at first.
Hemp seeds are known to inhibit platelets, so those who are taking anticoagulants should be careful before consuming them. There are no other known interactions with medications of any kind, but you should still consult with your doctor before consuming hemp seeds if you have any concerns.
Where To Buy Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are becoming a more popular food in the United States. However, because they are still difficult to produce in the United States due to restrictions on hemp production, hemp seeds must often be specially imported from Canada.
Many supermarkets carry hemp seeds in their specialty or health food isles. Health-focused grocery stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts will almost always contain hemp seed oil in the refrigerated section and hulled hemp seeds in their dry foods area. Costco sells large bags of hemp seeds for a discounted price.
Hemp seeds can also be purchased online, through Amazon or many other online retailers.
Storing Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are particularly sensitive to heat since the oils can easily go rancid. This is why hemp oil is always found in the refrigerated section. Hemp seeds and oils are best kept in a cool, dry place, like the refrigerator.
Hemp Seeds vs. Chia Seeds
Hemp seeds are not the only superfood seed that has become popular in the United States in recent years. Another superstar seed that many people are buying these days is the chia seed.
People have been eating chia seeds for centuries in Mexico and Guatemala. When they are soaked in water they swell up, making them great additions to yogurts, oatmeal, and even drinks like kombucha fermented teas.
Chia seeds are, like hemp seeds, a good source of omega-3s and other fatty acids. Chia seeds actually have a higher omega-3 content than hemp seeds. They’re also packed full of minerals like iron and calcium.
Hemp seeds, however, have a much higher protein content than chia seeds. 30 grams of hemp seeds would provide about 11 grams of protein, while the same amount of chia seeds would contain about 5 grams.
The differences between hemp seeds and chia seeds are not very dramatic from a health standpoint. Both of these seeds can be part of a low-sugar, high-fiber, and high-protein diet, and both would contribute to heart health. So, the major difference between these seeds comes down to taste and culinary preference.
Hemp seeds have a coarse texture and a nutty flavor. Chia seeds have a hard texture that gets gooey when soaked in water or other liquids, and they taste much like poppy seeds.
Final Thoughts on Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are part of a larger movement in the United States towards healthy, low-sugar, high-protein foods. Like many other foods, from quinoa to chia seeds, hemp seeds have been brought to the United States and other markets after being used for centuries in other cultures across the world.
These simple, nutty seeds are a fantastic addition to all kinds of cuisine, from salads to smoothies. Their health benefits are substantial and there are no known side effects. All of this adds up to make hemp seeds a true superfood.