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What are Hemp Seeds (and Their Health Benefits)?

Humans have been using seeds as a source of food energy for thousands of years. Seeds contain lots of energy in the form of vegetable fats and many healthy nutrients. Many of the best-known seeds used for human nutrition also have beneficial properties. In recent years, hemp seeds have been rediscovered, especially in the western world, because they are considered to have powerful healing properties.

Yes, we already know that some people may be suspicious of hemp seeds and moreover, everything about hemp is under a cloud because it is often confused with marijuana. However, these doubts or legal concerns are baseless because even though hemp and marijuana are just two different names for cannabis, the THC level in hemp is so low (0.3 per cent or less) it’s unlikely to get you high. Hemp seeds are completely legal.

Now that we have set all such doubts to rest and yet still you hesitate to add hemp seeds to your shopping cart because you’re not a dab hand at making hemp milk at home, or you’re at sea when your friends are discussing the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, this one is for you. This article answers some common questions about hemp seeds. It also discusses some of the health benefits of hemp and its uses.

What are hemp seeds

Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, which is botanically known as cannabis sativa L.. The hemp plant is occasionally confused by many with marijuana. Hemp, however, contains only trace amounts of THC, the main chemical in the cannabis sativa plant that makes people get ‘high’. Because hemp contains little THC, it is grown for non-drug use.

Hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein and various minerals. The nutty taste of hemp seeds is reminiscent of sunflower seeds and pine nuts, although hemp seeds have a milder taste. Their nutty flavour also makes them a great substitute for meat and dairy products.

Hemp seeds’ nutrition

Hemp seeds are edible and are a valuable addition to a vegan diet because very few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein. Hemp seeds are in fact a complete source of protein, which means that they provide all nine essential amino acids. Hemp seeds are especially rich in an amino acid called arginine. Hemp seeds are also a great source of essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and contain no trans fats. They’re packed with vitamins, especially vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin B-6. They’re also a good source of minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium.

Potential health benefits of hemp seeds

Hemp seeds are considered to be a superfood because they are rich in several key nutrients and some medical research suggests that hemp seeds have a wide range of potential positive health effects. Among the essential fatty acids discovered in hemp seeds, GLA (omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid) has strong anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, these seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid ( omega-3 fatty acid) and a 3-to-1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. This ratio is generally assumed to be optimal for heart and brain health. Hemp seeds also contain significant amounts of the amino acids cysteine and methionine, as well as very high levels of glutamic acid and arginine. Arginine is a non-essential amino acid that turns into nitric oxide, which is considered critical for the circulatory system’s proper functioning because it regulates vascular tone and blood flow.

The best way to eat hemp seeds

In the morning, there is nothing more enjoyable than a healthy, energetic, and unusual breakfast. Hemp seeds can be sprinkled over cereal or yoghurt or added to smoothies.

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In this case, don’t forget to grind them before mixing the ingredients of your tasty smoothie. It is even possible to make hemp milk at home using whole seeds, water, coconut sugar and vanilla extract.

But if you are in a hurry and have no time for breakfast don’t forget that hemp seeds enhance savoury and sweet dishes alike. For extra crunch, mix them into a coleslaw salad or an endive salad with plums and apples. Another idea is to blend them into hummus to play up its nutty flavour. A pinch of la dolce vita can be added to dishes by making pesto from them.

Hemp seed side effects

Unlike hemp leaves and other parts of the plant, hemp seeds are not considered unsafe for consumption. However, the seeds can cause mild diarrhoea due to the high-fat content. There are also insufficient clinical studies to prove the safety of hemp when used during pregnancy or nursing.

Composting to Kill Weed Seeds

Composting occurs when organic materials—such as yard trimmings, food wastes, and animal manures— decay to form compost, an earthy material that can be used to improve garden soil. Compost benefits gardens by:

  • Supplying many nutrients that plants need
  • Improving the soil’s physical characteristics, such as texture
  • Enabling the soil to better hold water and nutrients
  • Helping aerate the soil

The composting process also naturally kills weed seeds. Properly managed, a compost pile should easily reach 140°F, which breaks down all organic matter, including weed seeds.

The key word is properly . Organic matter that is improperly composted can introduce problems into a garden. Raw animal manure often contains disease-causing organisms such as E. coli and Salmonella, which can make people sick if they eat vegetables contaminated with them.

Manure can also contain live weed seeds. These seeds can spread easily from one farm, field, or garden to another, multiplying the problem from one weed to thousands of new weeds.

Figure 1. Build your compost pile with alternating layers of green matter (grass clippings), and brown matter (dead leaves), to maintain a proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

How does composting reduce weed seeds?

Proper composting occurs under the following conditions:

  • The ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ranges from 25:1 and 40:1. This ratio balances both energy (carbon) and nutrients (nitrogen).
  • The compost is about 40 to 60 percent moisture by weight.
  • The oxygen content is 5 percent or more.
  • The pH level ranges from 6 to 8.

In these conditions, microorganisms begin breaking down the organic residues and releasing heat. A clear sign that the compost is decaying properly pile is the release of steam when the surface of the pile is disturbed (Fig. 2). As the temperature rises above 113°F, heat-loving microorganisms replace the earlier microorganisms. At that stage, the pile will enter the active phase, with temperatures reaching 131 to 170°F in 1 to 3 days.

Figure 2. The release of steam from a compost pile when its surface is disturbed indicates that the compost is decaying properly.

These high temperatures are the key to killing weed seeds in a compost pile. In general, more seeds will die the longer that the temperature in the pile remains within this range (Table 1).

How to compost properly

Most gardeners have a static compost pile. They believe that composting consists of filling the pile, waiting a few weeks, and then magic happens—the compost is ready. In reality, most compost piles are merely trash heaps of garden and kitchen waste.

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To compost properly, keep the C:N ratio at 25:1 to 40:1 and the moisture, oxygen, and pH in the pile at optimum levels.

C:N ratio: To maintain the correct C:N ratio, build the pile with alternating layers of brown matter such as dead tree leaves, and green matter such as grass clippings. Adding equal amounts of green matter (grass clippings, kitchen waste) and dry matter (dry leaves) will often achieve this desired ratio.

Moisture: Water the compost pile regularly to keep the microorganisms alive and to soak the weed seeds fully. Don’t add so much water that it flows out from the bottom of the pile.

pH: pH meters are available in garden centers and can be used to estimate the pH level of the compost pile. However, an easy and more practical way to tell whether the compost pile is “cooking” properly is by its smell. If the compost pile smells sour or like a rotten egg, the pH is not correct. A compost pile at the proper pH should smell earthy, like freshly dug garden soil.

If the pile smells bad, check to see if it is too wet. You may be adding too much water or wetting too often. Let the pile dry for a while, and wet it less often. Another option is to turn the pile and mix it thoroughly.

If the first two measures do not help, mix lime into the pile to correct the low pH level and reduce the rotten egg smell.

Turning: Periodically mix the materials within the pile to introduce more oxygen and distribute the moisture evenly (Fig. 3). To add as much air into the pile as possible, break up any clumps, and move the drier material from the outer edges into the center.

Figure 3. Watering and turning the compost ingredients regularly will help keep microorganisms alive, aerate the pile, and distribute the moisture evenly.

Turning the compost will also enable the temperatures at the edges and surface of the pile to rise high enough to kill weed seeds. The pile must be mixed thoroughly during the active phase to ensure that all the material is heated for a long enough period to kill the seeds.

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Hemp Seeds Can Be Subtly Added to Almost Any Meal for Beaucoup Benefits

“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.

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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

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl

To make this paleo-friendly, and yet plant-based breakfast, simply mash a cooked sweet potato and top it with hemp seeds and blueberries.

Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

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.

Raw Vegan Zucchini Pasta With Hemp Seed Alfredo Sauce

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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