Hemp Seeds: The actual science behind this controversial crop


Last Updated October 11th, 2019

Hemp Hearts for Healthy Living

Hemp seeds are pale-beige to dark brown seeds which are derived from the hemp plant. These seeds are edible hemp plant product. The hemp plant is a species of Cannabis sativa and it contains very little active ingredient THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol which is quite infamous for being a psychoactive compound present in marijuana.

Unlike other notorious plants of the cannabis family, hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of THC, due to which it is not considered dangerous for consumption. These seeds are packed with healthy fats, proteins, and necessary nutrients. Since the nutritional profile of hemp seed is quite impressive, they prove to be a healthful addition to a regular diet. The usage of these seeds in the regular diet is still questionable as a hemp plant and marijuana belong to the same family. Additionally, cultivation of hemp crop is restrained; as cultivation of non-narcotic hemp is still considered illegal by few countries.

In 2019, the global industrial hemp market is estimated at around USD 1 trillion; the market is majorly driven by advanced economies that belong to North America and Europe continents. However, with increasing popularity hemp seeds have grabbed the attention of developing economies as well and competing with other equal nutrition- dense seeds.

Nutritional Profile of Hemp Seeds

One tablespoon hemp seeds contain 166 calories. Nutrition breakup of 1 tablespoon or 30 grams of hemp seeds:

Nutrient

Value

Protein

9.47 gm

Fat

14.62gm

Carbohydrates

2.6gm (1.2gm dietary fiber and 0.45gm sugar)

Potassium

360mg

Phosphorous

495mg

Magnesium

210mg

In addition to above-mentioned nutrients, these seeds also contain folate, iron, zinc, and calcium insignificant amount. Just like other seeds like chia and flaxseeds, hemp seeds also have a very nutty flavor. They are also utilized in other forms such as hemp derived milk, cheese, protein powder, and oil. The glycemic index of these seeds is low as their dietary fiber to carbohydrate ratio is quite low. Overall, hemp seeds are an extraordinary source of essential fatty acids and lean protein for vegans as these are derived from the plant source.

Rich Source of Essential Fats

Hemp seeds are exceptionally rich in nutrition, but they gained major popularity due to their essential fatty acid composition. They contain a great amalgamation of monosaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated fats. Around 80% of the total fat present in these seeds is polyunsaturated. The polyunsaturated fats in hemp seeds are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Both of these fats are the healthiest form of fats.

The ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in these seeds is 3:1, which is considered a perfect ratio. The amount of polyunsaturated fats present in one serving of hemp seeds is significantly higher than in flaxseeds or chia seeds. According to scientific study, including hemp seeds and oil in the daily diet of hens resulted in eggs with a higher level of omega-3 in the yolk. Also, in omega-3 fortified eggs, the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 was more healthful.

An Extra Boost of Protein

These seeds are packed with 10 amino acids that are essentially required to meet the protein demands of the human body. The amount of amino acids present in one serving of hemp seeds is double the amount of the amino acid present in the same serving of flaxseeds or chia seeds. Around 25% of calories in one serving of hemp seeds are contributed by essential amino acids. They contain a high concentration of methionine, cysteine, glutamic acid and arginine.

The digestion of plant protein is always a matter of concern as they have a lower digestibility than animal-source proteins. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAA) of animal-derived protein is 1, however, PDCAA score of hemp hearts ranges in between 0.63 to 0.66 which is higher than the majority of the nuts and grains. Presence of high amount of digestible amino acid in these seeds makes them a perfect constituent for slow carb, high protein diet.

The Rich Concentration of Essential Micro-Nutrients

Micro-nutrients are required in small quantities by the human body, however, they are majorly neglected and cause nutrient deficiency related health problems in an individual. In a developed economy like the United States, a large section of the female population has been diagnosed with iron deficiency due to negligence regarding the incorporation of iron in their regular diet.

Iron deficiency has affected 9.5% of the female population which age between 12 to 40 years in the United Staes. Moreover, the diet constraints of vegans and vegetarians have also made them prone to iron deficiency health problems. In such a scenario, plant-based hemp seeds have been proven to be a clear winner.

Magnesium demonstrates a crucial role in aiding more than 300 enzymatic processes in the human body. Magnesium is a very crucial micro-nutrient which is required for food metabolization, the formation of proteins and fatty acids. Furthermore, magnesium plays a significant role in muscle relaxation and neuromuscular signal transmissions. Magnesium is also involved in countering the problems of insulin resistance, osteoporosis, and coronary heart problems.

One serving of hemp hearts fulfill 45% of magnesium requirements of the human body. Similarly, it is a highly rich source of phosphorus and potassium which play an equally important role in supporting key biological processes in humans. One serving of hemp seeds caters to 45% fulfillment of daily phosphorus needs.

Bonus Points for Other Nutrients and Fiber

In addition to the above mentioned nutritional benefits, consumption of these healthful seeds adds both soluble and insoluble fiber to a regular diet which helps in the regulation of blood glucose level and improves the digestion process, respectively. They are also considered a great source of zinc, manganese, folate, thiamine, and vitamin-B6.

Consumption Guide for Hemp Seeds

They comprise delicate fatty acids; therefore, in order to get maximum benefit, it is advisable to consume hemp seeds in raw form. Additionally, they are required to be stored in a refrigerator, for increased shelf life.

Hemp milk is synthesized by hulled hemp seeds and it is loaded with essential amino acids and calcium. Commercially available hemp milk has sweeteners and fillers in it, which makes it little unhealthier. In order to make it more healthier, one can make this non-dairy milk at home by grinding a mix of hemp seeds and water together and filtering it with a sieve.

The powdered form of these seeds is a great source of vegetarian protein powder. It is a good alternative source of protein for vegans and vegetarians who do not wish to consume animal-derived proteins such as egg and milk.

Hemp oil which is derived from hemp seeds can be used for dressing of the salad. This oil has the potential to replace olive oil in salads. Also, it has the ability to replace flaxseed oil in smoothies due to the higher nutritional value of hemp oil than flaxseed oil. The fatty acids present in this oil are sensitive to heat treatment; therefore, it cannot be used for cooking and needs to be kept in a refrigerator for better shelf life.

These seeds can be used in various other variants as well such as they are used in granola breakfast bars, which is a healthier option than regular granola cereal breakfast bar. Moreover, it is used in making non-dairy products such as hemp-based butter and cheese.

Hemp Seeds: One Stop Solution for Multiple Health Problems

Saves Your Heart from Fatal Diseases

For several years, heart diseases have been accused of an increasing number of deaths across the globe. A high concentration of amino acids in hemp seeds, making it a savior for heart patients or for people who are at high risk of having heart diseases. These seeds are loaded with one of the important amino acids that are arginine which is responsible for the production of nitric oxide in the human body. Production of nitric oxide is closely associated with dilation and relaxation of blood vessels. This action of nitric oxide aids in maintaining blood pressure at a normal level, thereby, resulting in the lessened risk of heart ailments.

Gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid has been proven to suppress inflammatory responses in the human body which consequently reduces the risk of health diseases. Since hemp seeds and hemp oil have an abundance of gamma-linolenic acid, they can be used to counter risk associated with heart diseases. Research conducted on animals has demonstrated that the high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids in these seeds have helped them in playing a crucial role of a cardio-protectant agent.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids in these seeds diminish blood clot formation by significantly reducing the formation of platelets in heart and help heart patients to recover from heart ailment conditions. Additionally, omega fatty acids also decrease the level of triglycerides, which subsequently, reduces plaque formation in the heart, thereby, diminishing chances of heart problems such as irregular heartbeat.

Answer to Various Skin Problems and Immunity Linked Diseases

The significant impact of fatty acids can also be seen on an overall immune system of an individual. Imbalances of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid have been proven to cause auto-immune inflammatory skin disorders in human as well as animals. Dietary deficiency of essential polyunsaturated fats has resulted in excessive dry and scaly skin conditions; this condition can be improved by maintaining a healthy balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the body. Therefore, regular usage of hemp seed oil has been proven effective in dealing with skin related auto-immune disorders, eczema, and psoriasis.

Boon for Female Health

Increasing stress and deteriorating health conditions of modern women have worsened premenstrual syndrome (PMS) issues. These symptoms happen to be associated with increased sensitivity against prolactin hormone. These seeds are a green source of Omega-6 fatty acid, particularly, Gamma-linolenic acid which decreases the negative impact of prolactin by triggering the production of prostaglandins. These seeds are capable of dealing with problems associated with premenstrual syndromes such as breast pain, mood swings, depression, and fluid retention.

Additionally, GLA present in hemp seed is considered effective in the regulation of hormonal imbalances caused due to menopause. According to research studies conducted so far, consumption of 1 gm of essential fatty acids which contain 210mg GLA, has been able to significantly reduce PMS symptoms.

 Helps in Digestion Process

Whole hemp seeds contain a good amount of soluble as well as insoluble fiber. Out of total fiber content in these seeds, 20% belongs to soluble fiber and 80% belongs to insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is a substance of gel consistency and acts as a nutrient source for gut bacteria. Intake of soluble dietary fiber also helps in improving insulin sensitivity conditions and deal with high cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber helps in proper excretion of stool by bulking it, this process act as cleansing of the digestive system. Consumption of whole hemp seed has also been known to reduce the risk of diabetes (type-2) amongst its consumers. Due to the presence of high fiber content, these seeds in their raw form can act as an appetite suppressant and give a feeling of satiation; this promotes weight loss in the consumer.

Neuroprotectant Nature of Hemp Seed

The cannabidiol content in these seeds has the ability to act as a neuroprotectant. Preliminary level studies conducted on animals have demonstrated that these seeds could be beneficial for controlling neuroinflammation. Consumption of these seeds is capable of preventing memory related damages. Researchers are attempting to find the effective remedial application of hemp seeds that can be used in the treatment of Alzheimer and Parkinson syndrome.

In addition to above-mentioned health benefits, these seeds have been studied for their potential to inhibit malignant growth of cancer cells, in lung cancer patients. These seeds have immense potential to reduce inflammation and strengthen immunity in humans. Researchers all across the globe are examining the potential of hemp seeds in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Precautionary Measures with Hemp Seeds

  • Consumption of these seeds is generally not linked to any side effects; however, patients consuming anti-coagulants might need suggestions from a medical practitioner before initiating regular consumption. These seeds are known to suppress blood platelet production which might cause excessive bleeding in a patient taking anti-coagulants.
  • Sportsmen and sportswomen should be little cautious while consuming hemp seeds as the minute quantity THC present in these seeds, may be detected in urine tests.

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