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can you eat whole hemp seeds

Everything You Need to Know About How to Eat Hemp Seeds

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Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods

As far as the nut and seed world goes, hemp seeds are like the straight-A student who’s also captain of the football team. A couple of spoonfuls of hemp seeds packs a serious amount of essential nutrients, they’re easy to eat and cook with, and they have a pleasantly nutty taste, like a cross between a sunflower seed and a pine nut. And no, they won’t get you remotely high. Here’s everything you need to know about how to buy and eat these little seeds.

Although hemp and marijuana are members of the same species, Cannabis sativa, they’re in effect completely different plants. There are about a dozen varieties of hemp plants that are grown for food, and all of them contain about 0.001 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This means you can eat as much hemp as you want and you’ll never have to worry about getting high or failing a drug test. Although certain states have begun to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in the last couple of years, the hemp seeds you can find at your grocery or health food store were likely grown in Canada or China.

Hemp plants grow brown popcorn kernel-sized hard seeds. Inside these hard seeds lie soft, white or light green inner kernels that are packed with essential amino acids, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can’t really derive a lot of nutritional value from the unhulled seeds, so when you see a bag at the store labeled “hemp seeds,” what you’re actually buying is those soft inner kernels, also known as hemp hearts. Hemp hearts can be pressed to make hemp seed oil, leaving behind a byproduct that can be turned into hemp protein powder. You can find all of these hemp products at health food stores, or a well-stocked grocery store like Whole Foods.

Eating shelled hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, is as simple as sprinkling a spoonful or two into smoothies or on top of cereal, salads, or yogurt, says Kelly Saunderson of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods, the world’s largest hemp foods manufacturer. People with gluten sensitivity can use hemp seeds as a substitute for breadcrumbs to coat chicken or fish. Just like you can blend almonds and water to make almond milk, you can do the same with hemp seeds for hemp seed milk, which you can use as an alternative to dairy milk in drinks and recipes. And because of its nutty flavor, hemp seeds make a great substitute for people with nut allergies—you can dry-toast them over low heat to bring out even more of that nuttiness.

Hemp seed oil should be used as a finishing oil, rather than a cooking or frying oil, since the delicate omega fatty acids will break down during the cooking process, stripping the oil of its nutritional benefits. Instead, use it to make salad dressings, or drizzle over pasta, grilled veggies, or popcorn.

Hemp seeds are considered one of the most valuable plant-based proteins out there. Here's what you need to know about how to eat them.

How to Eat Hemp Seeds

How to Eat Hemp Seeds

If you’re looking for easy ways to eat healthier, hemp seeds can make an excellent addition to a well-balanced diet. Hemp seeds are packed with essential nutrients your body needs. There’s a reason hemp seeds have been eaten for thousands of years. They contain almost every essential nutrient you need for your health to absolutely thrive.

Hemp seeds aren’t just amazing for your health — they’re also easy to eat and cook with. Their nutty taste is mild and somewhat like a cross between pine nuts and sunflower seeds. Before we explore the ways you can make hemp seeds a part of your healthy diet, let’s take a look at just how beneficial they are for health and well-being.

The Nutritional Profile of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are one of the healthiest foods nature has to offer. Some consider hemp to be the most nutritious food that exists. What makes hemp such a nutrient-dense powerhouse?

According to the USDA, a 30 gram serving of hemp seeds (approximately 3 tablespoons) contains the following nutritional profile:

  • 166 calories
  • 14.62 grams fat
  • 9.47 grams protein
  • 2.6 grams carbohydrates (1.2 grams fiber/.45 grams sugar)
  • 21 milligrams calcium
  • 210 milligrams magnesium
  • 2.38 milligrams iron
  • 495 milligrams phosphorus
  • 360 milligrams potassium
  • 2.97 milligrams zinc
  • 33 micrograms folate

Needless to say, the number of nutrients hemp seeds contain is quite impressive. Let’s take an even deeper look and find out what are the hemp seeds good for.

They Are Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

While this is certainly impressive, it’s the unique essential fatty acid profile hemp seeds contain that make them even more extraordinary. Hemp seeds contain the highest level of plant-based essential fatty acids (EFAs), with a perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which is considered optimal for human health.

Hemp seeds also contain phytosterols, which some experts say are a great way to keep the brain and body young and manage high cholesterol levels.

They Are an Awesome Plant-Based Protein

When it comes to plant-based proteins, hemp seeds are one of the best options. They’re considered a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. More than 25% of their calories come from their high-quality protein profile. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 9.46g of protein, which can be a beneficial addition for vegans or vegetarians looking for plant-based proteins.

They Contain a Wide Range of Vitamins and Minerals

Hemp seeds are full of vitamins and minerals your body needs. They are especially abundant in vitamin E, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Hemp seeds are also a good source of riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, folate and vitamin B6. While hemp seeds also contain fiber, you’ll only find ample amounts in whole hemp seeds. Hemp seeds that have been shelled or de-hulled actually contain very little fiber.

Hemp Seeds and Health Benefits

So what are hemp seeds good for actually? The answer will satisfy every enthusiast and sceptic. The complete nutritional profile of hemp seeds packs some pretty impressive health benefits.

Hemp Seeds and Heart Health

hemp seeds

Hemp seeds contain ample amounts of arginine, an amino acid that helps produce nitric acid in the body. Why is this important for heart health? Nitric acid helps blood vessels expand and relax, which helps lower blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

One study found that people who adhere to a diet high in foods that contain arginine may be able to reduce their risk of heart disease. How exactly does it work? Increased levels of arginine intake are associated with lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). High levels of CRP are directly associated with heart disease.

Hemp Seeds and Healthy Skin

Hemp seed oil, which is made from hemp seeds, is known for its ability to calm and moisturize the skin without clogging pores. Hemp oil is often recommended as a component of a regular skincare routine. Adding a few tablespoons to your everyday diet could also benefit skin health.

Hemp Seeds and Hormone Health

Hemp seeds are abundant in omega-6 fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is known to help balance hormones. GLA produces prostaglandin E1, which can reduce the effects of prolactin. It’s suggested that prolactin sensitivity is directly related to symptoms of PMS. One study found that women who took one gram of essential fatty acids daily, including 210mg of GLA, experienced a substantial reduction in symptoms of PMS. It’s also believed that GLA could be beneficial for regulating hormone imbalance associated with menopause.

Hemp Seeds Won’t Get You High

pile of hemp seeds

One of the biggest concerns people have when it comes to eating hemp seeds is that they think the seeds might get them high. Although hemp and marijuana are derived from the same plant family (Cannabis sativa), the two plants are distinctly different.

Hemp doesn’t contain significant levels of THC, the cannabinoid found abundantly in marijuana that’s responsible for mind-altering side effects. In fact, the industrial hemp from which hemp seeds are derived contains less than 0.03% THC. It’s marijuana that’s cultivated for medicinal and recreational use that contains high amounts of psychoactive THC.

Not only does industrial hemp lack THC, but hemp seeds themselves don’t contain any active cannabinoids at all. Take it from Drug Policy Alliance staff attorney, Jolene Formene, who says, “Hemp seeds are non-psychoactive, meaning that consumers cannot get high by eating them.”

How to Eat Hemp Seeds

Now that you know why you might want to eat hemp seeds, we’ll show you a few different ways to add these beneficial seeds to your everyday diet.

Add Them to Smoothies

There’s nothing quite like a smoothie. It’s a simple drink with a limitless amount of good-for-you ingredients that makes a great snack or standalone meal in itself. Adding hemp seeds to an already healthy smoothie is an awesome way to get an added boost of the beneficial nutrients your body needs.

Toss Them into a Salad

bowl of leafy greens

Salads are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. One way to make a salad even healthier? By tossing in some hemp seeds, of course! Whether you prefer spinach, kale or baby greens, hemp seeds can pack some extra protein, fiber and other essentials into your salad.

Eat Them Raw

By far, the easiest way to eat hemp seeds is straight out of the package. Eating hemp seeds raw isn’t for everyone but is one way to consume a quick serving of nutrients whenever you feel like you’re running on empty. Hemp seeds can also be added to other nuts and dried berries for a supercharged snack mix.

Add Them to Baked Goods

If you love to bake, you might want to consider adding hemp seeds into the mix. Whether baking bread, muffins, cookies, cake or quinoa breakfast bars, hemp seeds will add a bit of a nutty, healthy twist.

Sprinkle Them on Your Avocado Toast

Want to take your morning avocado toast to the next level? Consider sprinkling some hemp seeds on top. They’ll offer a bit of extra nutritional value to help you get your day going, as well as a nutty crunch that could make hemp seed avocado toast your new go-to. Not a big fan of avocados? Try sprinkling hemp seeds on almond butter and banana toast instead.

Stir Them into Your Cereal

Whether you eat cereal in the mornings or save it for a midnight snack, stirring a tablespoon of hemp seeds in is a great way to add them to your diet. Simply pour cereal into a bowl, top with hemp seeds and add your favorite nut or dairy milk. It’s a super simple solution to getting the many of the nutrients you need to fuel your day. Not a big cereal fan? Consider stirring hemp seeds into your dairy or plant-based yogurt.

Sauté Them in a Stir-Fry or Stir into Sauces and Soups

Hemp seeds can make a great meal even better. Consider lightly sautéing hemp seeds into a stir fry a few minutes before removing from heat. Hemp seeds can also be stirred into your favorite sauces or soups. This is a great way to meet the nutritional needs of picky eaters in your household (who won’t even know the difference).

How to Store Hemp Seeds

hemp seeds on spoon by hemp seed oil

Hemp seeds should be purchased as fresh as possible. Do yourself a favor and look for the sell-by date before you buy. When you get hemp seeds home, they should be stored in a cool, dark place, as they keep best when they are away from bright light.

When stored in the pantry, hemp seeds should stay fresh for 3-4 months. Choose to refrigerate or freeze these beneficial seeds and they’ll stay good for up to a year.

What are some of the ways you incorporate hemp seeds into your diet? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Todd Smith

Todd Smith is Joy Organics Chief Partnerships Officer and Co-founder. Before Joy Organics, he worked in the wellness and nutritional industry for over three decades and helped generate over 1 billion dollars in supplement sales. He has applied that knowledge and experience to empower over 1000 businesses through Joy Organics’ partnership programs. Todd is also the author of a book, podcast, and blog titled Little Things Matter.

Hemp seeds are packed with essential nutrients your body needs. But are you curious just how to eat hemp seeds? Joy Organics shares different ways to enjoy.