It’s a common misconception that hemp is a distinctly different species of plant than marijuana. Really, they’re not that different, at all. These are essentially just two distinct names for cannabis, a type of flowering plant in the family of Cannabaceae. Though science does not distinguish “hemp” from “marijuana,” the law does. Legally, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is the main difference between the two. Legally speaking, “hemp” is cannabis that contains 0.3 percent or less THC content by dry weight. THC is the intoxicant portion of the cannabis plant.
Around two heaping tablespoons of hemp seed provides 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of omega acids. Since our bodies don’t produce omega acids, hemp is especially nutritious, because it contains nine varieties.
Hemp seeds are nuts, technically. They are highly nutritious, and a great source of nutrients. They’re nutty in flavor, and can be consumed raw, cooked, or roasted; they can also be made into a milk alternative.
Beneficial Fatty Acids in Hemp
There is over 30 percent fat in hemp seeds. They are particularly rich in two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which has been associated with many health benefits. Hemp seeds are a great source of protein, as high-quality protein accounts for more than 25% of their total calories. That is considerably more than comparable foods such as chia seeds and flaxseeds, which are 16-18 percent protein in calories. Hemp seeds, such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc, are also a great source of vitamin E and minerals.
Studies have been carried out on a myriad of health problems, to find any kind of efficacy hemp might have in treating the symptoms of. The gamma-linolenic acid in hemp has been shown to aid in the treatment of symptoms of dry eyes and of rheumatoid arthritis.
Hemp contains high amounts of the amino acid arginine, which the body converts into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that dilates and relaxes the blood vessels, which can lead to lowered blood pressure and a decreased risk of heart disease in some cases. Additionally, the fatty acids found in hemp can be supportive of healthy skin, hair, and nails.
Hemp is High in Fiber
In its external hull or shell, lies most of the fiber in hemp seed. Purchase hemp seeds with the hulls intact if you are especially interested in the benefits of fiber that hemp offers. Hemp seeds, however, are a generous source of fiber — even without the shells — with three tablespoons containing around 1.2 g of fiber.
Foods that have high fiber content are of most benefit to the digestive tract, aiding in digestion by adding bulk to the stool. This same action can make people feel full sooner, and in some cases may help maintain a healthy weight. Fiber also assists the body to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Avoid hemp seeds marketed as “Hemp Hearts” if you want to utilize their high fiber benefits. Hemp Hearts are the hulled version of hemp seed, so a lot of the fiber has been removed.
Add Hemp to Your Diet
The easiest way to add hemp benefits to your diet and enjoy the full range of nutrients is to sprinkle the seeds over cereal, salads, or yogurt. They can be eaten roasted, just like nuts. Hemp seed makes a handy coating for chicken or fish, especially for those with gluten intolerance. In the same way that almonds and water can be blended to make almond milk, you can make hemp seed milk, using that same process. Lastly, if you are looking for the best part of the hemp seed to use to benefit from its fatty acids, choose hemp oil to cook with or make salad dressings with.