Hemp is back! This variety of the cannabis plant, not to be confused with its intoxicating cousin marijuana, is one of the most significant crops in history.
It was among the first crops cultivated as a textile fiber, in things like cloth, rope and paper. Every part — seeds, stalks, leaves, flowers, roots — can be used. Historically, it has been used as food, in religious rituals and to treat wounds, toothaches and arthritis. Dietary hemp seeds are nutritious, versatile, and tasty.
A one-ounce serving of hemp seeds packs 10 grams of protein to maintain healthy muscles and keep you feeling full longer, 45% of the daily value — based on 2,000 calories a day — of magnesium to support bone density and circulation, and 15% of the DV for iron for a strong immune system.
An excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, hemp seeds can support cardiovascular health. According to a 2018 study in the journal Nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids are essential in the prevention and decreased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, and might be beneficial in obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Hemp seed oil has the highest proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been linked to reduced risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
At stores, hemp seeds, sometimes also called hemp hearts, typically can be found near other nuts and seeds or in the health food section. Raw and shelled varieties are sensitive to heat and light, so store them in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator or freezer.
A soft seed, hemp grinds up well forsmoothies and into nut butter and can add a subtle crunch and nuttiness to salads, veggie side dishes, yogurt, cereal and fruit. Mix them into soups and sauces and baked goods like granola and energy bars for a nutrition and flavor boost.
You also can buy hemp seed oil, extract, milk, protein powder and flour.
Environmental Nutrition is an independent newsletter written by nutrition experts on health and nutrition.