What are Hemp Seeds? What to Know About this Nutrient-Dense Food

I’m always on the hunt for easy ways to add variety to my meals, whether it be something to mix into my yogurt, toss in a salad, or add to a snack dip. Because I study nutrition, I’m constantly learning about the role nutrients have in our overall diet. One of the healthy foods I recently stumbled upon was hemp seeds. But what are hemp seeds?

When I first started researching hemp seeds, I knew they’d be a great addition to my diet for a bit of a nutrition boost while adding a textural component. Let’s take a look at what exactly the health benefits of hemp seeds are and how they can be incorporated into a day-to-day diet.

What Are Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds are small, brown seeds that come from the hemp plant. They are technically from the same species as the plant cannabis, also known as the marijuana plant. But don’t get ahead of yourself! It’s a common misconception that eating hemp seeds can make you high; however, this claim is not true at allHemp seeds only contain trace amounts of THC so they don’t have the same drug-like effects as marijuana.

Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

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Photo Courtesy of www.foodnavigator-asia.com

While there are several healthy seeds and nuts out there, hemp seeds are unique in the sense that they contain all of the essential amino acids that we need in our diet. Our bodies have the capability to produce 11 of 20 essential amino acids, but we are unable to produce nine amino acids. Thus, we must consume them in food form to get the sufficient amounts of the remaining amino acids that our bodies are not able synthesize.

Though hemp seeds aren’t technically considered a “complete protein” because of they don’t contain enough lysine to qualify, they’re still an excellent source of all of the nine essentail amino acids. When hemp seeds are paired with complementary proteins like lentils, nuts, beans, or grains, this combo can provide you with all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. Hemp seeds are a great alternative to meat when trying to get all your protein.

Another great thing about hemp seeds is that they contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are the only two essential fatty acids (i.e. fatty acids that the body can’t produce). Both of these play an important role in regulating blood pressure and coordinating inflammatory responses in the body. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of both cancer and heart disease, two of the leading causes of death in America.

Hemp seeds are filled with nutrients that all play an important role in our health. These nutrients include high levels of phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. All of these nutrients have specific functions within the body, ranging from bone formation, cell repair, immunity, and nerve and muscle function.

Beyond being loaded with nutrients, hemps seeds are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps moderate blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber is great for intestinal health, and promotes digestion and prevents conditions such as hemorrhoids. In general, fiber has been known to promote weight loss because it makes you feel full. To add to the already amazing hemp seed, it has also been known to improve skin conditions and decrease the symptoms of PMS.

Ways to Enjoy Hemp Seeds

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Photo Courtesy of greatist.com

It turns out that hemp seeds are quite versatile in the kitchen. Having a similar function to flaxseeds, wheat germ, and chia seeds, it wasn’t too difficult to incorporate hemp seeds into my meals. One great way to utilize hemp seeds is to mix them into a smoothie. It adds a bit of a nutty flavor, some extra texture, and a whole lot of health benefits! This is a great way to get tons of fruit, protein, and healthy fats in one meal.

My personal favorite brand of hemp seeds, Manitoba Harvest, has designed a product called the Hemp Protein Smoothie. This powder can be added to your smoothies for an extra punch of protein. What I love most about these is the fact that they’re not like your typical protein powder. Each product flavor only has about seven ingredients, which are all completely plant based. How great is that?!

Another way to include hemp seeds in your diet is to mix them into yogurt (my new go-to). What better way to start off the day than with a wonderful combination of sweet and nutty? As much as I love Greek yogurt by itself, hemps seeds give it an added texture and flavor that I just can’t resist.

One way you wouldn’t expect to eat hemp seeds is in more savory dishes. But this is yet another great way to get these wonderful, protein-packed seeds into your diet. Adding hemp seeds as toppers to savory meals can add some extra crunch and flavor. Manitoba Harvest even has specific products dedicated to being toppers for various foods. There are so many different flavors that will add some pizazz to your meals.

There are so many other easy ways to add hemp seeds to your meals. Whether it’s putting it on your toast, tossing it in your salad, or mixing it into your dip, you’re bound to find a way to enjoy these tiny super seeds while also being comforted by the fact that they are so nutrient dense. What’s not to love?

(Note: This article was written 100% by me, Georgia. However I first published it as a Spoon University article.)

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