This post was originally published in August 2012, and has been updated.
Hemp seeds are nutty and sweet like pine nuts but offer a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax and chia seeds share the omega-3 benefits, but when they get wet, their mucilage fibre gets slippery and sticky. Hemp’s crunchy yet creamy texture makes it the most versatile vegan omega-3 source. Try it in soup instead of dairy to add creaminess. Its high protein content makes it a perfect addition to meal replacement bars, cereal, porridge, salads, pesto, pasta, dressings, sauces, smoothies, desserts and side dishes.
Why you should heart hemp
Hemp seeds contain Omega-3 essential fatty acids necessary for muscle and joint repair. They also have all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form. Three tablespoons (30 g) of hemp hearts contain ten grams of protein — more than the amount found in a large boiled egg.
What’s more, 65 percent of the total protein content of hemp seed comes from an easily digestible protein called edestin, which is readily absorbed and utilized by the human body. It is also hypoallergenic, meaning it has a low allergy potential, making it a great replacement for soy and peanuts (provided it is processed in a factory free of tree nuts.)
Here are four more reasons to fall in love with hemp hearts:
1. They may reduce inflammation
Hemp seeds contain an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat called GLA that works in the body as an anti-inflammatory massager. GLA can decrease inflammation, and may help people suffering from eczema, arthritis and muscle pain. GLA also supports healthy hair, nail and skin health. Hemp hearts are also high in alpha linolenic acid, a type of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat that can reduce your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
2. Improve heart health
Hemp hearts sure live up to their name! They contain the amino acid arginine, which can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. They are rich in phytonutrients and anti-aging antioxidants such as vitamin E that protect the cardiovascular system from damage.
3. Reduce muscle cramps
Hemp hearts are a rich source of magnesium, which has been shown to reduce headaches and muscle cramps as the mineral is involved in proper muscle relaxation. Athletes are prone to magnesium loss from sweating, so adding hemp seeds to shakes can prevent post workout cramps. Hemp also provides substantial amounts of zinc, manganese and iron. These minerals are important for repair of tissues and maintenance of the immune system.
4. Combat menopausal and PMS symptoms
Some studies suggest that hemp hearts may help with hormonal imbalances that cause menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and depression. They are also helpful for PMS symptoms due to its GLA and magnesium content.
A recipe for a healthy hemp salad:
If you want a true stress busting salad this combo will do the trick. The sprouts and red pepper provides exceptional vitamin C that is important for bone and muscle health. Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants and studies suggest that they can even prevent cancer. The nutty flavour of the hemp hearts pair nicely with blueberries and the mood-boosting fat in hemp make this a truly happy salad!
4 cups sunflower and pea sprouts
½ cup red pepper, sliced
2/3 cup blueberries
1 cup snow peas
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pesto or lemon juice
1 tsp honey
Pink salt, to taste
¼ cup hemp hearts (shelled hemp seed)
1. Combine sprouts, pepper, berries and snow peas into a large bowl.
2. Combine oil, pesto, honey and salt into a small mason jar and shake vigorously until well mixed.
3. Pour over salad and top with hemp seeds.
Yield: Makes 2 large salads
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