The Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds (Plus Two Easy Recipes)
Technically, hemp “seeds” are really not seeds at all, they are actually a fruit. Tiny and round, sort of like itty bitty sunflower seeds, they have a pleasing, mild and slightly nutty flavor. Unlike sunflower seeds they aren’t crunchy but instead are a bit more like sesame seeds, but even softer in texture. Hemp seeds sort of taste like pine nuts, but have an even mellower, milder flavor.
In the last year or so I added hemp seeds to my “must eat” list of foods. I’ll admit, the list of healthy things I keep adding to my daily “must eat” list is getting a bit out of hand—between the vegetables, flaxseeds, raw fruit smoothies, fermented foods, etc. my stomach barely has room to fit it all in. Still, now that I know the health benefits of hemp seeds I’m finding creative ways to get my daily hemp fix too. I think of hemp seeds almost as a “superfood” because they have a tremendous nutritional profile. Here’s short and sweet version…
Eat Clean Healthy Hemp Seed Cliff Notes
1. Hemp seeds are an incredible vegan source of biologically available and easily digested protein. For those who are allergic to soy, hemp seeds are a great vegan alternative. Hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids. And did you know 3 Tablespoons of Hemp Seeds = 11 grams of protein?
2. Hemp seeds contain a healthy anti-inflammatory 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fat. In addition, hemp seeds contain an especially beneficial type of omega-6 fat called GLA (gamma linolenic acid). GLA is a direct building block of good anti-inflammatory hormones. Unfortunately, this special omega-6 fat is not typically found in foods (in fact I think hemp seeds are the only edible food source of GLA.) While it’s true your body can convert the typical food version of unprocessed omega-6 called linoleic acid (LA) into the “useable” GLA form your body needs, the conversion process can be thwarted by many internal and external factors. For example, with the passing of birthdays, the less efficient the enzymes your body uses to convert LA into GLA become. Chronic health conditions such as diabetes, infections, and even stress can reduce your body’s ability to convert dietary LA into GLA. This is a bad deal because GLA is very important for achieving optimal health. But simply by incorporating hemp seeds into your diet on a regular basis you can be sure of getting a healthy dose of GLA. Here’s a short run down of the health benefits of GLA:
- GLA supports a healthy metabolism and facilitates fat burning (some people who struggle with weight loss despite eating a healthy diet get a weight loss boost simply by adding GLA to their diets.)
- GLA can help reduce hormone-mediated nuisance symptoms (bye-bye PMS!)
- GLA supports healthy hair, nail and skin health.
- GLA decreases the tendency of inflammation in general. This can be helpful to anyone with an inflammatory condition such as asthma, MS, fibromyalgia, arthritis, etc
- GLA helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and improve cholesterol ratio
3. Hemp seeds are rich in disease-fighting, plant-based phytonutrients and anti-aging antioxidants such as vitamin E.
4. Hemp provides a rich array of minerals including zinc, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and iron.
How Do You Eat Hemp Seeds?
Lately I’ve been getting very creative with hemp seeds (it’s the key ingredient in my creamy Cesare Salad Dressing (recipe below). Because hemp seeds have such a mild unobtrusive flavor, they keep a low profile and can easily hide out in a wide number of dishes. Smoothies seem to be one of the easiest ways to sneak hemp into my own diet. I’ve also found I can sneak hemp seeds into vegetarian chili, oatmeal, and even pureed bean & vegetable soups. Probably the easiest way to eat them is to just sprinkle them right on top of my salad.
But, if you are as into smoothies as I am, you’ll love this quickie vegan food recipe for a hemp seed smoothie. Note: to make it a raw recipe just use raw almonds instead of the almond milk.
Hemp Can Add Creamy Richness to Vegan & Raw Eating Recipes…Especially Smoothies!
Orange-Banana Hemp Smoothie
- 1 frozen banana, chopped
- 1 whole orange, chopped
- 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
- 2 ice cubes
- If you want a totally raw recipe use 5 raw almonds otherwise you can use 3/4 cup almond milk
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Dash of pure almond extract
1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Drink at once!
Creamy Cesare Salad Dressing
Note: Actually, I make this recipe with anchovies, which is not vegan. However, it’s such a teeny tiny amount that it really doesn’t “count.” But, if you want it to be strictly vegan you should leave the anchovies out.
- 2-3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon organic Worcestershire
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup of Hemp Seed Oil (or extra virgin Olive Oil)
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (leave this out if you want it to be 100% vegan)
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Note: Dressing will keep in refrigerator for 3 to 4 days if stored in a covered container.