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You've heard the buzz surrounding hemp seeds, but perhaps you're not totally sure about cannabis making its way into your diet. We hear you. While botanically related to the cannabis plant synonymous with marijuana, hemp seeds are its THC-free cousin loaded with nutritional (and beauty!) benefits. "Unlike its cousin, no part of the hemp plant has any of the psychotropic properties, but it does share the same healing abilities," says Certified Holistic Nutritionist Elissa Goodman.
Boasting 10 grams of protein per tablespoon, it's easy to see why the crunchy, nutty-tasting seeds are making their way into everything from smoothie bowls to salads. "I think hemp seeds have gained so much popularity because of an increasing number of people who have adopted plant-based eating in addition to those looking for vegan sources of protein," says Farah Fahad MS, RD, dietitian. And an impressive dose of protein is only the beginning of the hemp seed's incredible benefits.
Keep scrolling to read even more benefits of adding hemp seeds to your diet.
They Contain a Perfect Balance of Omega Fatty Acids
"Hemp contains a balanced ratio of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9," explains Goodman. "These acids are essential, meaning our body can't produce them, so they must be obtained through diet." Goodman points out that consuming a balanced amount of each is important, and Fahad adds that this will aid with cardiovascular health. "A diet too high in omega-6 without enough omega-3 to balance it will lead to inflammation, while a diet too high in omega-3 can lead to a reduced ability for blood clotting and wound healing," says Goodman. "The standard American diet is typically low in omega-3 and high in omega-6. Hemp seeds offer about six times the omega-3 levels of fish."
They Are a Great Source of Fiber
Fahad tells us that whole hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which together, make for improved digestive health. "Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the gut and is a valuable source of nutrients for the beneficial digestive bacteria, and it may also reduce spikes in blood sugar and regulate cholesterol levels," she explains. "Insoluble fiber adds bulk to fecal matter and may help food and waste pass through the gut. Consuming insoluble fiber has also been linked with a reduced risk of diabetes."
They Contain All 9 Essential Amino Acids
As Goodman mentioned, essential means our bodies don't produce it—and all nine amino acids are essential. You can add hemp seeds to your shopping list because as you may have already guessed, all nine (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine) are packed into a serving. "Amino acids are protein-building blocks that help us maintain all the tissues in our body," Goodman tells us. "These proteins are incredibly important and are often lacking in diets today. While we tend to get too much protein on a macro level, the micronutrient proteins are often lacking."
They Are a Natural Appetite Suppressant
"Hemp has high nutrient density with low caloric density, making it an appetite suppressant but one that still gives the body valuable nutrients," Goodman says. "I recommend adding one tablespoon in your morning smoothie, juice, or on top of some coconut yogurt kefir. The protein, fiber, and fats will help to keep you satiated and reduce the need to snack throughout the day."
You Can Add Them to Almost Every Meal
What's better than a nutrient-packed couple tablespoons of hemp seeds? The fact that you can easily top off everything, from your morning avocado toast to your evening salmon dinner, with a serving. "They're protective for your heart and brain, thanks to the omega-3s packed into these mild-tasting, smaller-than–sesame seeds little gems," Nutritionist Keri Glassman told us. "Sprinkle them on anything from salads to smoothies to granola or even your oatmeal."