Hemp seeds can be another way to fuel your body with healthy fats and essential fatty acids.
Also known as hemp hearts, seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa are full of high-quality protein, Vitamin E, zinc and the fatty acids, noleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).
Ammi Midstokke, a nutritional therapy practitioner based in Sandpoint, said hemp seeds are touted as a “superfood” on the marketplace, though they offer similar benefits to many nutrient-dense nuts and seeds.
“There are myriad studies that correlate the compounds within hemp seeds to health benefits,” Midstokke said. “The marketing for hemp seeds might claim they lower blood sugars – and studies show fiber aids in this – and are good for brain health because of the omega-3 and 6 levels.”
“While hemp seeds are delicious and meet the hype for a nutrient-dense food, most nuts and seeds do, as well as fruits and vegetables,” Midstokke added.
A study by J.C. Callaway in “Euphytica,” an international journal about plant breeding, found the seeds two main proteins – edestin and albumin – are high-quality, easily digestible storage proteins that contain “nutritionally significant amounts of all essential amino acids.” The study also noted hemp seeds and hemp seed oil as being a longstanding resource in Chinese medicine.
The Cannabis sativa plant contains only trace amounts of THC, and Midstokke noted the seeds used for consumption typically have none.
“There are no legal limitations to the sale, purchase or consumption of them, even in states where regulations have not allowed the use of cannabis products containing THC,” Midstokke said. “Hemp seeds as a food product have been around long enough to establish and live up to their reputation as a food that is good to keep in the cupboards and on our plates.”
Midstokke said hemp seeds are so prevalent now that many health food stores and natural markets are carrying more than one brand. Typical uses include sprinkling them on salads, blending them into smoothies or baking them into breads and muffins.
“My personal favorite is to add them to a porridge of nuts and seeds that I mix to take on backpacking trips because they are so nutrient-dense,” Midstokke said.
Healthline reported hemp seeds as having more than 25% of their total calories stemming from high-quality protein versus the 16-18% range for chia seeds or flax seeds.
They also serve as a potent source of minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium. The high fiber in the seeds can aid in better digestion, and the omega-3 and 6 fatty acids have been tied to relieving dry skin and eczema for some people.
The seeds also contain significant amounts of the amino acid, arginine. This produces nitric oxide in the body. Healthline cited several scientific studies that showed nitric oxide to dilate and relax blood vessels, leading to lowered blood pressure. Gamma-linolic acid found in hemp seeds has also been linked to reduced inflammation, with Healthline also citing studies that tie reduced inflammation to a decrease in risk for health complications such as heart disease.
While hemp seeds can be a potent addition to your diet, Midstokke said it’s important to obtain nutrients from all types of foods.
“Variety is key in any nutritious diet,” she said.
Midstokke offers nutritional consulting utilizing advanced testing methods, group education and cooking courses. Visit www.twobirdsnutrition.com for more information.
Tyler Wilson has been writing for various publications around the Inland Northwest since 1999. He and his wife have four children and a podcast, “Old Millennials Remember Movies.” Because everybody has a podcast.