Hemp seeds are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and are a great source of plant-based protein.
Recently, I had dinner at a friend’s place. Salad was on the menu and it included all the usual suspects: mixed greens, avocado, walnuts, a light, lemon and olive oil vinaigrette, and a dusting of parmesan for good measure. Personally, I like salads — they’re satiating, and tasty, and I get to give myself a pat on the back for being healthy.
But the first bite of this salad — please believe me when I say this — was nothing short of magical. Initially, I couldn’t put my finger on why. I’d made plenty of versions of this green medley before, but none with the same taste bud tantalizing star power. Then I inspected my bowl.
The ingredient that swept me off my feet with its nutty flavor and crunchy texture was none other than the unassuming hemp seed. I’d heard of this nut before, but never gave it a second thought, writing it off as a health food trend that would surely fall out of favor.
Hemp seeds are the edible seeds of the hemp plant. And no, they won’t get you high as they contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. You can buy hemp seeds with the shell on or with the shell off, in which case, they’re referred to as hemp hearts.
After devouring the aforementioned salad (and taking some to go), I promptly put the ingredient on my grocery list and snagged the largest bag I could find. There’s not a week that goes by where I don’t consume a few tablespoons of the stuff. Avocado toast, salads, smoothies, as a crunchy crust on tofu or chicken — if there’s a way to add hemp seeds to a dish, I’m there.
As it turns out, my obsession is doing pretty great things for my overall well-being, too. Here are the health benefits of hemp seeds.
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Great for Heart Health
Hemp seeds contain several nutrients that keep the heart functioning well. Magnesium, which is key to regulating the heartbeat. Arginine, an amino acid that produces the nitric acid required to relax and dilate the blood vessels — resulting in lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. And the fatty acid linoleic acid, which has been linked to reduced inflammation and can lower the risk of heart disease and cholesterol levels.
The ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds — typically 2:1 or 3:1 — is super nutritious for our brains and bodies and helps reduce inflammation so our immune systems can operate at their peak. Additionally, the tiny oval-shaped nut contains gamma-linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat that is also shown to keep inflammation down. Prolonged and chronic inflammation in the body is linked to myriad health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and fatty liver disease.
Read more: The 6 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Helps with Digestion
Our bodies need fiber to process and digest the things we consume, and hemp seeds pack plenty of it. The nutritional powerhouse actually contains soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are required for healthy digestion. Fiber also reduces appetite, aids in weight management, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and supports gut health.
Excellent Source of Protein
Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain a whopping 9.46 grams of protein. And it’s not just any protein, either. This healthy ingredient is one of the few foods that provide a complete source of protein, meaning it includes all nine essential acids. Our bodies can’t produce all nine of these amino acids, so we have to get them from the foods we eat. Protein, for its part, helps speed muscle recovery and lean muscle growth and supports the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Read more: The Essential Guide to Plant-Based Protein
Reduces PMS and Menopause Symptoms
The gamma-linoleic acid in this little seed produces prostaglandin E1, which reduces the effects of the hormone prolactin. Sensitivity to prolactin is linked to premenstrual syndrome or PMS. Consuming gamma-linoleic acid-rich hemp seeds can help ease PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, depression, irritability, and fluid retention. The fatty acid is also shown to reduce hormone imbalances caused by menopause.
Keep in Mind
Hemp seeds are incredible superfoods that include minerals and nutrients like vitamins B and E, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. However, they can interfere with some heart medications like digoxin and can lead to a slower-than-normal heart rate. When combined with certain diuretics, hemp seeds can cause the body to flush out too much potassium resulting in dangerously low levels.
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