Now more than ever, people are attempting to live a healthier lifestyle.
This often includes incorporating things like exercise, meditation, and better nutrition.
If you’ve taken the route of improving your nutrition, then you’ve likely noticed a lot of promotion for a product called hemp hearts.
Although hemp hearts aren’t a new discovery, they are finally getting the attention they deserve as nature’s nutritious secret.
Hemp hearts, sometimes marketed as hulled hemp seeds, are the soft interior of hemp seeds.
Hemp seeds, which come from the cannabis sativa plant, are fed into industrial machines to remove the hard outer shell, revealing the soft, inner core of the seed known as the hemp heart.
This process is called hulling or shelling.
Like the cannabis plant itself, people have utilized hemp hearts for their nutritious value over thousands of years.
Their flavor, described as earthy and nutty, has been lauded by those who consume them as a healthy food that actually tastes good.
It isn’t common to come across something as delicious and healthy as hemp hearts.
These tasty morsels pack as much of a punch in the nutrition department as they do flavor.
According to the USDA, a three-tablespoon serving of hemp hearts, which is about 30 grams, maintains an impressive nutrition profile.
One of the most impressive nutritional aspects that hemp hearts bring to the table is their high concentration of protein.
The USDA states that three tablespoons or 30 grams of hemp hearts contain nearly ten grams of protein.
Roughly 25% of the calories in hemp hearts come from protein content.
Compared to other plant-based protein sources, hemp hearts are the clear winner.
The protein content of hemp hearts is a large contributing factor behind the recent rise in popularity of hemp-based protein powder supplements.
If protein supplements are part of your diet or you are interested in learning more about hemp protein, we recommend checking out our deep-dive article exploring the pros and cons of hemp-derived protein supplements.
Once upon a time, foods with high fat content were considered unhealthy and were often avoided.
We now know that this is not always the case, as some fats are vital to our body’s functionality and homeostasis.
With their 30% fat content, hemp hearts may have erroneously fallen into the “foods to avoid” category at one point in time, but we know better now.
Advances in our understanding of nutritional fats have put a light on the benefits of foods that have high levels of healthy fats.
Hemp hearts are one of the treats that fall into the healthy fat category.
Three tablespoons of shelled hemp hearts maintains a total fat content of 14.6 grams.
If we break this down further, roughly 1.38 grams is saturated fat, 1.62 grams is monounsaturated fat, and 11.4 grams come from polyunsaturated fat.
The bulk of the fat content in hemp hearts is polyunsaturated fat.
Polyunsaturated fats are comprised of what many often refer to as healthy fats. Healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6 come with a litany of potential health benefits.
If you’re interested in more information about the potential benefits of healthy fats from hemp-based products, we recommend checking out this article.
As if the protein and healthy fat content of hemp hearts wasn’t enough to convince you to incorporate these tasty treats into your daily routine, they also come with a healthy serving of several beneficial vitamins and minerals.
A single serving (three tablespoons, 30 grams) of hemp hearts, according to the USDA, contains the following vitamins and minerals:
|Vitamins and Minerals||Amount|
|Vitamin C||0.15 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.18 mg|
|Vitamin A, IU||3.3 IU|
|Vitamin E||0.24 mg|
In addition to the impressive nutrition profile of hemp hearts, those who monitor cholesterol intake will be relieved to discover that hemp hearts have no cholesterol or trans-fatty acids.
The nutritional value of hemp hearts is likely enough reason for you to make them a dietary staple in your life.
However, if you need additional rationale, there are plenty of other potential benefits that hemp hearts bring to the table.
In addition to omega-3 and omega-6 found in hemp hearts, researchers at the Mayo Clinic also found hemp seed oil (which is extracted from hemp hearts) to be a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
GLA, as well as omega-3 and omega-6, are touted by many for their potential neuroprotective benefits.
A 2019 clinical publication by the Mayo Clinic suggests that the healthy omega fats, like those found in hemp hearts, may provide several neural benefits.
These include potentially reducing the symptoms or severity of depression, lessened symptoms in those battling rheumatoid arthritis, and potentially offering protection from Alzheimer’s disease.
Hemp hearts are also an excellent source for all nine essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids.
Amino acids play an important role in our brain’s ability to operate properly and maintain other primary and secondary bodily functions.
Hemp hearts maintain a digestibility rate worth taking note of.
Unlike many plant-based supplements, which can be difficult for our bodies to process and digest fully, our bodies are very effective at digesting hemp hearts.
Researchers in the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba evaluated the digestibility of hemp seed.
Their findings report that hemp seed meal possesses a digestibility rate of 90.8-97.5%.
Much of the digestibility behind hemp hearts can be attributed to its 1.2 grams of dietary fiber found in each serving.
Many people report improved bowel regularity and constipation relief after adding hemp hearts to their diet.
A study conducted by researchers at the Digestive Disease Center in Beijing explored the validity behind these claims.
The findings report that, in animal models, hemp heart/hemp seed consumption was a contributing factor in relieving constipation when compared to the study’s control group.
Although more research is needed before we can definitively state the cardiovascular benefits of hemp hearts, preliminary signs are pointing towards positive benefits.
The healthy omega fats found in hemp hearts are hypothesized to help maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism presents a convincing case that hemp seeds may be beneficial in the influence of heart disease.
However, the study concluded that additional clinical trials were needed on the subject.
Simply put, no.
Although hemp hearts come from the seeds of the cannabis sativa plant, which is the plant that also produces THC, you should have no worries about getting high from consuming dietary hemp hearts.
The “heart” of the seed does not produce THC, which is the compound responsible for getting users high.
THC production occurs mainly in the plant’s flower and is not produced until the plant is mature.
Most sources consider a serving size between 2-3 tablespoons or 20-30 grams.
There are no clear-cut rules outlining how much a person should consume in a 24-hour period.
This is likely because nutritional needs can vary greatly from person to person.
Another question that often follows this is, how do I eat them?
This is yet another opportunity for hemp hearts to showcase their versatility.
There is truly no wrong way to eat hemp hearts.
Many people opt for convenience, grabbing a handful from the container and eating them raw. Others opt to sprinkle them as a topping on salads, oatmeal, and breakfast cereals.
If you’re the type who makes your own protein bars or smoothies, hemp hearts can be an easy and nutritious addition to these as well.
Hemp hearts are considered safe for consumption by the general population.
Although side effects reported from hemp heart consumption is extremely rare, there are a couple of things that you may want to monitor for if you fall into a demographic that may be sensitive to hemp hearts.
For instance, the fat content in hemp hearts is considered healthy, the added dietary fat can present temporary mild gastrointestinal discomfort until your body becomes acclimated.
Additionally, yet lacking significant clinical evidence, is the potential for a person to be allergic to hemp hearts.
At the time of writing, we were able to locate a case report (n=1) from 2003, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Ideally, future studies will provide clarification regarding the potential for allergic reactions to hemp hearts.
The report itself even states, “To the best of our knowledge, we believe this to be the first case of anaphylaxis to ingested hemp seed.”
Although dietary hemp hearts have been around for tens of thousands of years, they have only begun making a name in mainstream western dietary supplements.
This small yet nutritious snack will likely continue to rise in popularity.
We will not be surprised to see hemp hearts being offered more frequently by restaurants and retailers in the near future.
As additional research is completed, we will better develop our understanding of the potential benefits that hemp hearts may provide.
We are learning more each day about hemp hearts and the potential of the cannabis plant as a whole.
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