"Hemp seeds are the small, brown edible seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant, but they do not contain either THC or CBD the psychoactive compounds found in marijuana," says Keri Gans, MS, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet. To be clear, the Cannabis sativa plant is more commonly known as the hemp plant, and it is not the same plant celebrated on 4/20. It was, however, unfairly lumped in with its stoner sister species, and as a result, banned from the U.S. for many decades. But since 2018, its cultivation's been legal nationwide—which is great news for our diets.
Not yet taking advantage of this petite superfood? Below, find all the deets on why you should be incorporating hemp seeds into your diet, as well as some easy tips for doing so.
Nutritional profile of hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are small but mighty, at least from a nutritional standpoint. "One serving (3 tablespoons) of hemp seeds has 180 calories, 9.5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and is packed with micronutrients, such as magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, thiamine, vitamin E, and iron," says Gans.
As such, they are an excellent source of plant-based protein, which is noteworthy for those trying to cut back on their consumption of animal products. "Protein helps to build and repair muscle mass, as well as help with satiation at meal time," Gans says.
Their omega-3 fatty acid content is significant as well. According to Whitney English Tabaie, MS, RDN, CPT, nutrition expert and author of Plant-Based Baby and Toddler, just two tablespoons of hulled hemp seeds provides 169 percent of your daily omega-3 fatty acid needs. "Hemp seeds are an excellent source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, which helps to fight inflammation in the body," she says. Omega-3 may even decrease the risk for heart disease, adds Gans.
All those aforementioned micronutrients are beneficial, too. "Magnesium and phosphorus have been associated with bone health, and thiamine helps to breakdown carbohydrates in your body and convert them to energy," Gans says. Vitamin E, meanwhile, is a powerful antioxidant that can play a role in preventing chronic disease.
Hemp seeds (100 g)
Protein: 24.8 g
Fiber: 27.6 g
Calcium: 145 mg
Iron: 14 mg
Magnesium: 483 mg
Phosphorous: 1,160 mg
Potassium: 859 mg
Sodium: 12 mg
Zinc: 7 mg
Manganese: 7 mg
Vitamin C: 1 mg
Vitamin A: 3,800 IU
Vitamin D: 2,277.5 IU
Vitamin B-6: 0.12 mg
Vitamin E: 90 mg
How to incorporate hemp seeds into your diet
Hemp seeds ($15) are fairly easy to incorporate into your diet in myriad ways. Gans likes to add them into meals she feels might benefit from extra protein, like a mixed green salad, a bowl of oatmeal, or a breakfast smoothie. Tabaie also adds them into smoothies and acai bowls, not just for the protein but also for a boost of healthy fat. She loves sprinkling them onto toast with avocado or nut butter and bananas for the same reasons, too. "You can also use them to make a vegan parmesan by pulverizing them with nutritional yeast and a little salt," she adds.
Well+Good actually polled its readers for hemp seed meal ideas, too. One user likes to toss them into her pasta sauce for added nuttiness. A few others like to include hemp seeds in homemade salad dressings. Another likes the idea of adding them into cauliflower "mashed potatoes." Personally, I like to add them into no-bake cookies, particularly "two-ingredient" banana oatmeal varietals to which I like to add dark chocolate chips, too.
The possibilities may not be endless, per se, but they are abundant. You can opt to cook or bake with hemp hearts, too, which are simply the seeds sans shells. They're just as healthy, but Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, registered dietitian and owner of BZ Nutrition, says they can actually be somewhat easier to digest.
3 hemp seed recipes to try at home
To make this paleo-friendly, and yet plant-based breakfast, simply mash a cooked sweet potato and top it with hemp seeds and blueberries.
This healthy take on a summer favorite is the perfect dish to serve at your next shot-girl-summer dinner party or barbecue. Your grandmother never would've dreamed of a shortcake made from healthful ingredients like quinoa and hemp hearts, but maybe she will after you serve this one to her.
This 100-percent plant-based pasta dish is so light and healthful that even your (hypothetical) Italian relatives would be impressed.
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