Hemp Hearts Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Hemp hearts, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Hemp hearts are the soft inner part of hemp seeds after the outer shell has been removed. The tiny cream and green-colored seeds are sometimes referred to as shelled or hulled hemp seeds.

Hemp hearts come from the from 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.

Nutrition Facts

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

  • Calories: 166
  • Fat: 14.6g
  • Sodium: 1.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 2.6g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Sugars: 0.5g
  • Protein: 9.5g

Carbs

A single serving of hemp hearts is relatively high in calories but low in carbohydrates. A serving of hemp heart (3 tablespoons) has 166 calories but just 2.6 grams of carbohydrates. Nearly half of the carbs (1.2 grams) come from fiber. Only a half gram of carbs come from sugar and the rest comes from starch.

Hemp hearts are a low glycemic food with the glycemic load of a single three-tablespoon serving estimated to be 0.

Fats

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 11.4 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

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 (about 5 grams each).

Hemp seeds also contain all nine essential amino acids and they are well digested, especially for a plant based protein.

In general, animal sources such as eggs, milk, and whey have a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAA) of 1.00, which means they’re well digested. Plant protein sources typically fall below this. Soy leads the plant category with a score close to 1.00, followed by beans, pulses, and legumes (score of 0.6 to 0.7), and grains and nuts (0.4 to 0.5). Hemp hearts have a PDCAA score of 0.63 to 0.66.

Vitamins and Minerals

Not only are hemp hearts loaded with healthy fats and proteins, but they’re also packed with nutrients.

Hemp is an excellent source of magnesium, providing about 210mg or about 50% of your daily needs. A serving of seeds also has 13% (2.4mg) of the daily iron requirements for adults. And hemp hearts are also a good source of zinc, providing about 3mg per serving or about 20% of your daily needs.

Health Benefits

By including hemp seeds in your diet, you may take advantage of certain health benefits. Many research studies investigating hemp benefits have been performed on animals. More research in humans is needed.

Improved Heart Health

Like other seeds (and nuts), hemp seeds are heart-healthy. Studies have shown that they are high in both omega-3 fatty and omega-6 fatty acids. A healthy omega-3 to omega-6 intake is crucial for the prevention or reduction of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

Authors of one research review concluded that there is enough evidence to support the hypothesis that hemp seeds have the potential to beneficially influence heart disease, but they added that more research is needed.

Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

You'll get a healthy dose of magnesium when consuming hemp seeds. Magnesium is needed by the body for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium helps the body break down sugars and might help reduce the risk of insulin resistance—a condition that can lead to diabetes.

Stronger Bones

Magnesium also helps your body to build stronger bones. The NIH reports that people with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. And studies have shown that a proper level of magnesium in the body is important for maintaining healthy bones.

Constipation Relief

Hemp seeds may provide some relief to those with constipation due to the fiber they provide. Researchers have found that increasing your fiber intake helps to increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.

Preliminary research has also 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. However, more research needs to be conducted to understand the full benefit in humans.

Improved 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 conducted to see if this benefit extends to humans.

Allergies

Allergic reactions to Cannabis sativa have been reported, although many studies investigate the part of the plant used for marijuana use (not hemp seeds). There have been reports of sore throat, nasal congestion, rhinitis, pharyngitis, wheezing, and other problems including anaphylactic responses. There have also been reports of hemp workers involved in processing hemp fibers at a textile mill showing a significantly higher prevalence of chronic respiratory symptoms.

Recent reports of allergy to hemp seed are lacking. But at least one older study was published indicating that the condition is possible.

Adverse Effects

When consumed as a food, hemp seed is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Many people wonder if they will get high from consuming hemp seeds. But that is not likely to happen. While marijuana and hemp seeds are related (they come from the same cannabis plant family), they are very different.

Hemp seeds don't naturally contain significant levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component. In fact, food-grade strains of hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. But studies have noted that they may not be free of this compound entirely.

A study conducted in Canada found variations in THC levels in hemp seed products, with some evaluated brands containing higher amounts than the legal threshold. Researchers suggested that the higher levels may be due to contamination during processing.

If you are taking certain medications, including estrogen, ACE inhibitors, or antihypertensive drugs, speak to your healthcare providers before consuming hemp seeds.

Hemp seeds are naturally gluten-free but can be subject to cross-contamination if they are processed in a facility that also processes gluten-containing grains.

Varieties

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.

Many people wonder how 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.

When It’s Best

Hemp seeds are available year-round in many natural food stores. But hemp is often harvested in the fall.

Storage and Food Safety

Hemp seeds can spoil fairly easily. But when stored properly, a package of hemp hearts can last for a year. Packages of shelled hemp seeds should be stored in a cool, dry place or at cooler temperatures. The best way to prevent spoilage is to store hemp seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator. When stored in a pantry, they will only last 3 to 4 months.

You can also store seeds in freezer-safe bags and store them in the freezer. You'll know that hemp hearts have gone bad when they have a rancid smell.

How to Prepare

You can use hemp hearts to make kitchen staples. For example, you can make hemp milk by blending hemp hearts with water, then straining them. Ground seeds can be used to make flour. Or you can use the ground seeds to make vegan protein powder.

Some people extract hemp oil from the seeds and used for dressings and sauces.

Hemp hearts are versatile, so they can be used in a range of dishes, from sweet to savory. They help provide texture, a little crunch, and a subtle, nutty flavor. They’re a great protein-packed addition that can be sprinkled atop many dishes or included in a recipe as an ingredient.

Consider these simple ways to use hemp seeds, hemp milk, or hemp oil:

  • Blend a smoothie with berries, milk, and a splash of maple syrup. Top the smoothie with hemp seeds or add them right in before blending. Check out this Mango Banana Smoothie recipe.
  • Use hemp milk to make other smoothies with nutritious ingredients such as peanut butter, bananas, oats, or avocado.
  • Use hemp milk to make your morning latte.
  • Use hemp seeds to make a pie crust. Pulse them in a food processor first to get the right consistency, then press into a pie pan.
  • Add hemp seeds to pesto.
  • Make a citrusy salad dressing with hemp oil, fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and minced garlic
  • 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.
  • Toast hemp seeds and use them to coat fish or chicken before baking or sprinkle them on top of avocado toast.
  • Make energy bites with hemp hearts to get you through the afternoon slump. Just add 1/4 cup of hemp protein powder to your favorite snack bar recipe to add 14 grams of protein.
  • 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.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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