Hemp: Your New Favorite Superfood

You may have heard a thing or two about hemp, or you may be judging this amazing superfood from a distance based on what you've heard about it's cousins.

Hemp hearts, or seeds, are incredibly nutritious and should be sprinkled on everything! Here are six things you may not know about this nutrient-dense powerhouse.

1. Hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious

Often referred to as hearts, these little seeds are technically a nut, with a mild and nutty flavor. Containing over 30% fat, these seeds are very rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Hemp seeds are a slam dunk protein source as well, with more than 25% of their total calories coming from high-quality protein.

2. Hemp seeds may reduce your risk of heart disease

The seeds contain high amounts of arginine, an amino acid, which produces nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide is a molecule that helps your blood vessels dilate and relax, which can lead to lowered blood pressure and therefore a reduced risk of heart disease. Another powerhouse, gamma-linolenic acid, has been associated with reduced inflammation, which may reduce your risk of heart disease, and disease in general.

3. Hemp seeds and oil may benefit skin disorders

A great source of polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids, hemp seeds have about a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 - the optimal range. Studies have shown that giving hemp seed oil to people with eczema may improve blood levels of essential fatty acids, thereby reducing the uncomfortable symptoms.

4. Hemp seeds are a great source of plant-based protein

Of the calories found in hemp seeds, about 25% come from protein, which is relatively high.

By weight, hemp seeds provide similar amounts of protein as beef and lamb. For example, 30 grams of hemp seeds, or 2–3 tablespoons, provide about 11 grams of protein. Additionally, the digestibility of hemp protein is very good, actually far better than protein from many grains, nuts and legumes.

5. Hemp seeds may reduce symptoms of PMS and menopause

High levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), resulted in a significant decrease in symptoms in a study of women with PMS. Though the exact process is unknown, the GLA in hemp seeds may regulate the hormone imbalances and inflammation associated with menopause.

6. Whole hemp seeds may aid digestion

High amounts of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, make hemp seeds a digestive superstar. Most of the fiber is found in the shell, which in most cases has been removed, but adding this superfood to your meals will provide a little boost of fiber and help your body move the food along, cleaning up the gut on the way through.

Hemp seeds have been a staple food in many societies because they provide excellent nutritional value, though we are only just discovering their benefit in the West. Overall, hemp seeds are incredibly healthy, and everyone should be liberally sprinkling them on everything. They may be one of the few trendy superfoods worthy of their superstar status.

*Hemp seed shells may contain trace amounts of THC (< 0.3%), the active compound in marijuana. People who have been dependent on cannabis may want to avoid hemp seeds in any form.

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