Hemp seeds are produced from the hemp plant, also called Cannabis Sativa. This simple seed offers incredible nutritional benefits and it’s tasty too!
This plant is still best known for its psychoactive uses (in a form often called “marijuana”) or for CBD, the popular nutritional supplement. However, hemp is an amazing multi-purpose plant. Hemp seeds, in particular, are very healthy as a food.
After struggling under decades of stigma, today consumers prize hemp for its health benefits. No other single plant source can compare with the nutritional value of hemp seeds. In its small seed, hemp packs a good source of amino acids, protein, fiber, and essential fatty acids. Hemp is also considered to be more allergy-free than some plant proteins.
Today, you can commonly find hemp hearts (hulled hemp seeds) in almost any grocery store, along with numerous hemp protein powders and similar products. However, at the end of this article, we’ve linked to some of our favorite brands available on Amazon, for ease of ordering. While we recommend that you never buy CBD oil on Amazon, it’s safe to order hemp food products on Amazon just as you would any other ingredient.
Benefits of hemp seed
These seeds have several benefits that make them a superior source of daily nutrients:
- Hemp seeds are nutritionally superior to flax, chia, or fish Oil
Hemp contains both GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). GLA is a fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. CLA is a building block of cell membranes. It also offers more protein than Flax & Chia.
- Balanced ratio of Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp offers a naturally balanced 1:3 ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). EFAs are responsible for strengthening your immune system.
“One of the most complete sources of vegetable nutrition”
- Hemp seeds offer all 10 Essential Amino Acids
There are 8 amino acids that the human body cannot make and 2 more the body cannot make in sufficient quantity. Hemp offers all these essential amino acids in its seed.
- Great source of dietary fiber
Hemp seeds offer 17g of fiber per serving, while a serving of hemp protein also contains 8-11g of fiber. Hemp is a great way to add fiber to your daily diet.
- Source of vitamins and minerals
Hemp seeds are a great source of vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.
- 25% of the total calories are high quality protein
65% of the protein in hemp seed is edestin, a protein that helps your immune system to properly function. 35% of the protein is albumin, which helps the protein get easily assimilated into the body. Hemp offers a great alternative protein if you are allergic to dairy.
- Fights bad cholesterol levels & blood clots
Studies have suggested that hemp seed and hemp seed oil can help break down cholesterol as well as fight blood clots, which are typically caused by high cholesterol levels.
- Helps improve various skin conditions
Clinical trials have shown that the Omega-3 and Omega-6 found in hemp oil help dry skin and are beneficial for the treatment of conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
While eating healthy can be great for your skin, hemp oil and hemp-based products may be even more beneficial when used directly in skin care.
Ways to eat hemp seeds
Hemp seeds can be eaten in so many different ways. It just really depends on your creativity.
Here are just a few common ways to eat them:
- Eat raw as a snack.
- Mix into your smoothie.
- Sprinkle on top of cereal, salads, yogurt, or even oatmeal.
- Substitute hemp hearts for breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish.
- Blend with water to make hemp seed milk.
- Ground hemp seed to use it as a condiment.
- Toasted hemp seeds can be eaten like popcorn.
Recipes for hemp hearts
Today, you can find hemp heart recipes on many food websites. We’ve collected a few of our favorite hemp recipes that we’ve published over the last few years below:
Things to consider when buying hemp seeds
With hemp food products so widely available, it’s pretty easy to buy hemp hearts or hemp protein. Still, here’s a few tips:
- What kind of hemp seeds are you buying?
Hulled hemp, often called hemp hearts, is the entire seed with the crunchy outer shell removed.
Hulling the seeds, rather than eating as a whole, makes it easier to eat. Removing the shell also makes the hemp hearts more nutritious, as it increases the overall percentage of protein and essential fatty acids. You can eat hemp hearts in numerous ways, such as mixing in shakes, cereal, or sprinkling some on your salad.
Toasted hemp seeds are whole seeds that are roasted in high temperatures for a varied length of time. This results in a popcorn like snack. Toasted hemp is a popular snack in many countries around the world, especially in the Middle East.
In addition to hulled & toasted hemp seeds, producers add hemp as an ingredient to their products, as hemp is such a healthy supplement. Be on the lookout to see if you run into any energy bars or spreads that have hemp in them! Most grocery stores also stock hemp protein powders that are perfect for adding to smoothies and shakes.
- Where are the seeds grown?
Hemp is grown in most industrialized countries, including the United States.
Most hemp grown in the U.S. is grown for CBD, a popular nutritional supplement with many benefits. Slowly, U.S. farmers are producing more acres of hemp in the U.S. for other uses, including food. Many other countries typically grow hemp for industrial use (construction, textiles, etc.) and for food.
Outside of the United States, Canada has the best quality hemp grown for food. This is not only because of the taste of the hemp strain that Canadian farmers use, but also because of the strict regulations that the Canadian government enforces.
Canadian farmers can only plant hemp seed varieties listed under Health Canada’s List of Approved Cultivars. Canadian farmers also don’t plant GMO seeds or use pesticides when farming hemp.
In general, you should avoid hemp grown in China or most other countries when selecting hemp foods. China doesn’t regulate hemp producers as strictly as Canadian farmers. An easy way to tell the difference between Canadian hemp and others is by taste.
Make sure to check labels to ensure the hemp is from Canada or the U.S.!
- What flavor are you looking for?
Hemp seeds have a pleasant nutty taste. Many people compare them to unflavored sunflower seeds, but with a much softer texture. We think you’ll find them delicious once you try them.
Most hemp hearts are unflavored, though there are some flavored hemp hearts available. When it comes to toasted hemp seeds, you’ll find a variety of flavors out there, much like peanuts or corn nuts.
- Do hemp seed brands matter?
It’s relatively easy to find hemp at your local grocery store. However, there’s also a lot of boutique U.S. brands that offer great hemp seed products through honest ingredients and fair prices.
Check out our full unbiased hemp seed brands review to find which brand offers the best quality hemp seeds and where you can buy them.
Kit O’Connell contributed to this guide.