Aside from producing marijuana, the cannabis sativa (aka hemp plant) plant also yields highly nutritious hemp seeds that have a nutty flavor, similar to a pine nut. And, no, they won’t get you high; hemp seeds do not naturally contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. However, these small seeds will enrich your body with a bounty of important health benefits for your heart, brain, gut, and more—which is why cooking with them to make dishes like chocolate chip cookies, and spicy hummus is a great idea, according to a registered dietitian.
The key hemp seed benefits for your health, according to an RD
“One serving—three tablespoons—of hemp seeds has 180 calories, ten grams of protein, two grams of fiber, three grams of omega-3 fatty acids, and is packed with micronutrients, such as magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, thiamine, vitamin E, and iron,” Keri Gans, MS, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet, previously shared with Well+Good.
According to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and the founder and director of Real Nutrition, hemp seeds are super nutritious and a great (and efficient) way to spruce up a recipe with longevity-boosting benefits. “Hemp seeds promote heart health as they are a great source of L-arginine, an amino acid that leads to the production of nitric oxide which helps to dilate blood vessels and promote blood flow. This, in turn, helps decrease one’s risk of heart disease,” Shapiro says. In addition to assisting with blood flow, she says that research shows L-arginine also decreases inflammation due to its effect on C-Reactive Protein, a marker of inflammation in the body.
Shapiro says that hemp seeds also contain two essential fatty acids—omega-3s and omega-6s—which research has indicated are directly linked to a longer lifespan and integral to both brain health and heart health. One recent study actually showed that having higher levels of omega-3s in the blood could predict a lower mortality rate in people over the age of 65 years. Meanwhile, omega-6s, when consumed in moderation, produce signaling molecules in the body that are necessary for immunity, blood pressure regulation, inflammation, blood sugar control, and central nervous system functioning.
Hemp seeds are also the name of the game when it comes to plant-based protein. “They are a great protein source, as 25 percent of their total nutrition value is from protein. That’s higher than both flax and chia seeds,” Shapiro says. Plus, they’re considered a complete protein source, which means they contain all the essential amino acids required by our bodies. Additionally, she notes that hemp seeds are a good source of fiber that helps improve digestion, regularity, and promote a healthy gut microbiome.
4 brain-boosting hemp seed recipes packed with fiber and omega-3s
1. Tahini Hemp Seed Bars
These seven-ingredient tahini hemp seeds bars by Running on Real Food are packed with fiber-rich ingredients like rolled oats and come together in the blender in just a few easy steps. Plus, they’re packed with tons of protein and nutty-rich flavor thanks to the hemp seeds and tahini (which is made from sesame seeds and loaded with healthy fats and anti-inflammatory properties).
Get the recipe: Tahini Hemp Seed Bars
2. Hemp Seed Energy Bites
These hemp seed energy bites by The Simple Veganista give protein balls a whole new meaning. They’re made with just five ingredients, including hemp seeds, dates, and oats, or can be spruced up by rolling them in cacao powder, shredded coconut, or cinnamon for extra fiber, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Get the recipe: Hemp Heart Energy Bites
3. Hemp Seed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Turn dessert into a protein-packed delight with these hemp seed chocolate chip cookies by The Conscious Plant Kitchen that are chewy, gooey, and incredibly easy to make. Just like the previous three recipes, the dough can be whipped together in the blink of an eye using a handy food processor—that’ll make cleaning up a breeze and baking no sweat.
Get the recipe: Hemp Cookies
4. Cilantro Jalapeño Hemp Seed Hummus
Just when you thought you couldn’t love hummus even more, this cilantro jalapeño hemp seed hummus recipe by Drive Me Hungry enters the chat. It’s the perfect combination of rich, creamy, and spicy, which means it’s basically the perfect dip for dunking fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Get the recipe: Cilantro Jalapeño Hemp Seed Hummus (Without Tahini)
Feeling a little backed up? Here are an RD’s go-to foods to make you go number 2: