The hemp seed comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. Though it falls under the same species as marijuana plants, it's considered a different variety and only contains trace amounts of the psychoactive THC.
Hemp seeds are known for being rich in protein, but they offer a variety of surprising benefits to your health as well. Below are 5 scientifically-proven health benefits of hemp seeds:
1. Hemp seeds are amazingly high in nutrients
Hemp seeds are incredibly nutritious. Often called 'hemp hearts,' they are mild and nutty in taste, and a solid source of healthy fats, protein and minerals.
They are safe to consume raw, cooked, fried, or toasted. As a complete protein source, they provide all the essential amino acids your body needs - and the digestibility of hemp protein is better than many nuts and grains.
Composed of over 30% fat, the hemp seed is rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Over 25% of the seeds' total calories come from protein, which puts them far and above flax and chia seeds.
The hemp seed is also packed with vitamin E and important minerals, like calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur and zinc.
2. Hemp seeds are good for your heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world. But studies are showing that hemp seeds can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Hemp seeds come packed with arginine, an amino acid that helps your body produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps your blood vessels relax, improving blood flow and circulation - and reducing your risk of heart disease.
A study of over 13,000 people showed that increasing arginine intake corresponded with lower levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker that has been linked to heart disease. Gamma-linolenic acid, also found in hemp seeds, has been shown to reduce inflammation as well.
3. Hemp seeds and hemp oil are great for your skin
Studies have shown that the strength of your body's immune system depends on its proportions of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
The hemp seed, a great source of essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids, offer close to a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is within the healthy range recommended by nutritionists.
Hemp seed oil has also been shown to improve blood levels of fatty acids, relieving dry skin, reducing itchiness, and offering an organic alternative to skin medication.
4. Hemp seeds help ease PMS and menopause symptoms
Each month, an overwhelming majority of women suffer from physical or emotional symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These symptoms include pain or tenderness in the breasts, irritability, depression and fluid retention.
Thought to be caused by a sensitivity to the hormone prolactin, the gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in hemp seeds helps reduce prolactin's effects. A study of women with PMS showed that taking 1 gram of essential fatty acids - which are rich in GLA - a day led to a significant decrease in symptoms.
Though the exact process is still being studied, research has indicated that the GLA found in hemp seeds may help reduce the inflammation and hormone imbalances symptomatic of menopause, too.
5. Whole hemp seeds help digestion
Fiber is a vital part of any diet and often linked to digestive health.
Whole hemp seeds, which are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, provide essential nutrients to your body's digestive bacteria. They also help food and waste pass through your gut, and help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.
But to reap their digestive benefits, the hemp seed must be eaten whole - it's the shells that are rich in fiber.