Hemp Hearts Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts, annotated
Photo: Alexandra Shytsman 

Hemp hearts hail from the Cannabis sativa L. plant, but unlike some other species of the cannabis plant, hemp hearts have nonmedicinal levels (less than .3 percent) of the psychoactive compound THC. The plant originates from Central Asia and the hemp fibers and seeds have been used and enjoyed by humans for thousands of years. Today, hemp hearts can be found worldwide. They’re loved for their versatility, nutty flavor, and nutritious benefits.

Hemp hearts are the soft inner part, also called the "heart" of hemp seed, after the outer shell has been removed. Tiny cream and green-colored seeds, you’ll often see hemp hearts referred to as shelled or hulled hemp seeds. The common varieties of hemp hearts are organic and non-organic, but you’ll often find other derivatives of the hemp seed including, protein powder, soft gel capsules, oil, and meal.

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 3 tablespoons (30g) of hemp hearts.

  • Calories: 166
  • Fat: 15g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 2.6g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Sugars: 0.5g
  • Protein: 9.5g

Carbs in Hemp Hearts 

Seeds are often hailed for their protein and healthy fat offerings. While seeds, in general, are lower in carbohydrates, the carbs they do provide are healthy and hard-working. A serving of hemp heart (3 tablespoons), has just 2.6 grams of carbohydrates—half of those (1.2 grams) come from fiber.

Due to their fiber to carbohydrate ratio and their protein and fat offerings, hemp hearts have a low glycemic index similar to other nuts and seeds. 

Fats in Hemp Hearts 
Hemp hearts are filled with healthy fats. A serving of 3 tablespoons has almost 15 grams of fat, of which 1.4 grams are saturated, 1.6 grams are monounsaturated, and almost 12 grams are polyunsaturated—omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. That’s more of the good fats than you’ll find in a similar serving of chia or flax seeds. Since hemp hearts are plant-based, they are also cholesterol-free.

Protein in Hemp Hearts 
These little seeds pack a huge plant-based protein punch. A serving of 3 tablespoons has nearly 10 grams of protein, about double what you’ll find in a similar serving of flax and chia seeds. What’s great about the protein found in hemp hearts is that it’s a complete protein and is well digested (digestion can often be a concern when it comes to plant-proteins).

In general, animal sources such as eggs, milk, and whey have a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAA) of 1, which means they’re well digested. Plant protein sources typically fall below this. Soy leads the plant category with a score close to 1, followed by beans, pulses, and legumes (score of .6-.7), and grains and nuts (.4 to .5). Hemp hearts have a PDCAA score of 63 to 66 percent.

Micronutrients in Hemp Hearts
Not only are hemp hearts loaded with healthy fats and proteins, but they’re also packed with a ton of nutrients. A serving of just 3 tablespoons has 13 percent of the daily iron requirements for adults.

This is great news, as iron is the second-highest nutritional deficiency in the United States—this impacts about 9.5 percent of adolescent girls and women ages 12 to 40 years. Iron deficiency is a common concern amongst vegetarians and vegans as well, which makes this iron-packed plant-based food a winner.

Hemp hearts are also an excellent source of zinc, providing equal to or more than 20 percent of the recommended daily value (DV). They're a great source of thiamine (25 percent of DV), phosphorus (45 percent), magnesium (45 percent), and manganese (100 percent). Hemp hearts also contain riboflavin, folate, and vitamin B6.

Health Benefits

Heart Health
Like other seeds (and nuts), hemp hearts are heart-healthy. To start, they’re loaded with omega-3s, a nutrient most Americans don't receive enough of. A healthy omega-3 to omega-6 intake is crucial for the prevention or reduction of many diseases. Getting enough omega-3s in your diet can help protect against stroke and improve the risk of heart disease.

Omegas do this by reducing triglyceride levels, slowing down the build-up of plaque in your heart, reducing blood pressure, and reducing the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.

One animal study conducted with hemp seeds specifically found that consuming the seed reduced "bad" LDL-cholesterol levels and increased "good" HDL-cholesterol levels. Other animal studies have found that eating hemp seeds may help reduce the build-up of platelets in the heart (which can lead to a clot), as well as lower blood pressure.

Healthy Digestion
Preliminary research has found that hemp seeds may help with constipation. One animal study found that consuming hemp seed soft capsules helped relieve constipation compared to the control group. More research needs to be conducted on this, however.

Cognitive Function
Another recent, preliminary animal study was conducted on the potential benefit hemp seeds might have on issues with memory and neuroinflammation. Researchers found that the hemp seed extract prevented the learning and spatial memory damage from inflammation and improved damage from the induced inflammation in the hippocampus. More studies need to be done in this area as well.

Common Questions

Can you get high from hemp seeds?
Quick answer—no. While marijuana and hemp seeds are related (they come from the same cannabis plant family), they are very different. Hemp products contain very little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so they do not have a psychoactive effect. 

How do hemp seeds compare to other common seeds like flax and chia?
All of these seeds—chia, flax, and hemp—are great sources of plant protein and fiber. They do vary when it comes to their nutritional offerings. Hemp hearts have 10 grams of protein per serving, while chia and flax have only 5 grams per serving.

Additionally, hemp hearts have more omega fatty acids—with 12 grams per serving—than flax and chia seeds with 9 and 7 grams respectively. Hemp seeds are also unique in that they contain something called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is an anti-inflammatory omega fatty acid; flax and chia seeds do not.

Recipes and Preparation Tips 

One of the most beloved characteristics of hemp hearts is that they’re versatile, so they can be used in a range of dishes, from sweet to savory. They’re a great protein-packed addition that can be sprinkled atop many dishes or included in a recipe as an ingredient.

They help provide texture, a little crunch, and a subtle, nutty flavor. There are plenty of easy ideas for adding more hemp hearts into your diet.

  • Top off your morning smoothie with hemp hearts for added texture or add them right in before blending. Check out this Mango Banana Smoothie recipe.
  • When making a yogurt parfait, sprinkle in hemp hearts when adding the layers of fruit (in between the layers of yogurt). Then add a pinch or two of hemp hearts to top off.
  • Make these kid and adult-friendly energy bites to get you through the afternoon slump.
  • Give your granola an upgrade by adding in hemp seeds like with this Almond and Buckwheat Applesauce Granola recipe. Making your own granola at home allows you to control what gets added.
  • Do-it-yourself protein bars are so much better (in taste and nutrition) than store-bought. 

Allergies and Interactions

As with any food, it is possible to be allergic to hemp seeds. If you suspect an allergy to hemp seeds, you should consult with your doctor.

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