The Nutritional Benefits of Eating Hemp

Hemp hearts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

They are quickly becoming the next “it” item in the realm of plant-based superfoods. Hemp hearts and many other hemp-containing foods are popping up on menus, store shelves and even at your local coffee shop. Find out what all the hype is about surrounding hemp and discover the many ways you can get more hemp in your diet.

What Is Hemp?

Hemp used for food comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. This is the same plant family as marijuana but the tiny seeds the plant produces are what you eat. They don’t contain the potent dose of THC found in the leaves.

Whole and unshelled hemp seeds look similar to large brown peppercorns. Inside the tough outer layer, you will find a softer, pleasantly chewy inner section. The tender little pieces inside are referred to as hemp seeds or hemp hearts.

Once these seeds are extracted from the hull, hemp can be morphed into various forms. Hemp hearts can be blended with water, then strained to make a thick and highly drinkable milk. Delicate and slightly nutty hemp oil can be extracted from the seeds and used for dressings and sauces. Finally, ground seeds are also used to make a flour that can be used for baking when combined with other types of flour or on its own as a vegan protein powder.

Hemp seeds contain many healthy essential oils but they can spoil fairly easily. Packages of shelled hemp seeds can be stored in a cool, dry place or at cooler temperatures. To prevent spoilage, store hemp seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator. For less frequent usage or extended storage, place seeds in freezer-safe bags and store in the freezer. Hemp milk is available in shelf-stable boxes but must be refrigerated once opened.

Nutritional Benefits of Hemp

Hemp seeds don’t slack in the nutrient department, offering an ample amount of macronutrients and several minerals.

Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 166 calories, 15 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber and 9.5 grams of protein. These tiny seeds are an excellent source of iron, zinc, and magnesium and also contain a good amount of potassium.

One of the most impressive things about these high protein seeds is they contain all nine essential amino acids. This makes this hemp foods equal to meat (and other types of animal foods) in the protein department. Hemp also boasts several important essential fatty acids including omega-3 and omega-6.

Hemp and its derivatives are naturally gluten-free but like oats, can be subjected to cross-contamination when processed in facilities that also process other gluten-containing grains. If you have to avoid gluten, seek out products that are certified gluten-free.

10 Ways to Eat Hemp

There are numerous opportunities to get more hemp into your diet. Here are 10 simple ways to incorporate seeds, milk, and oil into your daily recipes.

  1. Blend seeds into a smoothie with berries, milk of choice and a splash of maple syrup. Save a few seeds to sprinkle over the top.
  2. Keep that blender out! Creamy and mild hemp milk is also a wonderful addition to smoothies.
  3. Lightly toasted hemp seeds make a crunchy, gluten-free coating for fish or chicken.
  4. Toss a layer of hemp seeds atop slices of avocado toast.
  5. Pulse hemp seeds and nuts in a food processor and press into a pie pan for a vegan and gluten-free pie crust.
  6. Add hemp seeds to pesto for a nut-free take on a classic pasta sauce.
  7. Cozy up with a hemp milk latte. Whisk espresso or strongly brewed coffee with steamed hemp milk, sweetener of choice and a dash of ground cinnamon.
  8. Whisk hemp oil with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and a touch of minced garlic for a light and fresh salad dressing.
  9. Add 1/4 cup of hemp protein powder to your favorite snack bar or bites, it will add 14 grams of protein to the mix.
  10. Add a few handfuls of hemp seeds to any recipe for granola.
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  1. Nutrition Facts: Hulled Hemp Seeds.