This superfood is small yet mighty
Hemp has become a sort of wonder plant over the last couple of decades. The hemp plant produces everything from textiles and building materials to beauty products and food. The seeds of the plant, known as hemp hearts, are loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you’re looking for your new favorite superfood, this may be it.
Protein is essential for a healthy body, and there are about 9.5 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons of hemp hearts. That’s more than chia or flax, other popular small-but-mighty superfoods. Our bodies use protein for power in muscle recovery too, so if you are physically active or have fitness goals, hemp hearts are your new best friend.
Not only are hemp hearts high in protein, but they’re also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber slows down digestion, which can help you feel fuller longer. Because it can’t be broken down by the body, fiber can also help lower your blood sugar. This can help prevent or manage diabetes.
In addition to being high in protein and fiber, hemp hearts are a great source of thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, and manganese. These vitamins and minerals are critical for muscle and nerve function, growth and development, immune support, and energy production.
Hemp hearts are a great source of antioxidants, which fight inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to diseases and in some cases, cancer. There is promising research showing that some of the properties of hemp may be helpful in treating leukemia, liver cancer, and breast cancer. And foods high in fiber, like whole hemp seeds, are helpful in reducing your risk of colon cancer.
The most common form you’ll find in a grocery store, hemp hearts are the shelled versions of hemp seeds. Hemp hearts contain less fiber, but they’re tastier and easier to eat.
Hemp hearts can get your skin glowing from the inside. Hemp is high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, both of which are essential for clear, healthy skin. A diet deficient in omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids can result in dermatitis and rough, scaly skin. You can also apply hemp oil directly to the skin as a moisturizer, and many cosmetics and lotions contain hemp oil.
Hemp hearts contain an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health. Western diets tend to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, which may increase the risk of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Some properties of hemp hearts can even help reduce blood clots and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Hemp is nutty in flavor and can be eaten shelled as hemp hearts, as powder, or as an oil. They work well in sweet desserts like Chocolate Hemp Balls or savory dishes like Lentil Quinoa Burgers with Hemp Pesto. If you aren’t sure where to start, start by adding a tablespoon of hemp hearts to your cereal in the morning for extra crunch.
Omega-3s and omega-6s are great for more than a healthy heart and glowing skin—they can also help fight the inflammation that causes osteoarthritis. There is also promising research showing that hemp oil can help fight rheumatoid arthritis.
For those who have issues digesting grain or gluten, hemp hearts are grain and gluten free and are used in a wide range of products from bread and wraps to pasta and even ice cream. This can be good news for people with celiac disease who can’t eat gluten or others who choose to avoid grains and gluten.
Hemp has multiple uses, from clothing and paper to cosmetics and lotions to animal and human food. Hemp doesn’t require as many chemicals as other crops and has good resistance to drought and pests. Products made from hemp are considered more environmentally friendly and sustainable than other sources, especially plastics.