By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
What They Are
Hemp seeds -- sometimes called "hemp hearts" -- are sprinkled on foods, pressed for oil, ground into protein powder and made into milk. Afraid of psychotropic side effects? Don't be. While these small, pale-beige to dark-brown seeds form the edible part of the hemp plant (aka pot, ganja, weed, grass, Mary Jane, doobage), they don't contain THC, the active drug found in hemp leaf.
Since hemp is considered a controlled substance and is not legal to grow in the United States, most of the hemp we find comes from Canada. The plant grows... well, like a weed. So it requires little to no pesticide or herbicide, which makes buying organic less important.
The Dirty Deets
Two tablespoons of hemp seed serve up 90 calories and six grams of fat. Watching what you eat? I say, "Keep sprinkling!" That two-tablespoon serving size offers two grams of fiber, five grams of protein, 300 mg of potassium, 15 percent of your vitamin-A requirement and 25 percent of your daily iron needs. It’s hard to find another food that nutrient-dense.
- Hemp has a unique fatty-acid profile that includes common omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, plus less common stearidonic (SDA) and gamma linoleic (GLA) acids. These fatty acids fight inflammation and protect your heart and immune system.
- Hemp milk, rich in the above fatty acids, is a great source of protein and calcium -- and tastes pretty good, too. Commercial varieties contain fillers and sweeteners, so you may wish to make your own by tossing hemp seeds and water in a blender and straining the mixture through cheesecloth.
- Hemp makes a great vegan protein powder, high in fiber and lacking in fillers (it's simply milled hemp seeds). While the powder is not a complete protein, it’s pretty close to perfect in my book.
How To Chow Down
Sprinkle hemp seeds on salads, yogurt or oatmeal, or over rice or veggies. The seeds have a mild flavor, so you’ll mostly notice the crunch. Use hemp oil in low-heat cooking or salad dressings. Hemp milk and protein powder work as easily in cereal as they do in smoothies.
- Love yourself some dip? Obsess over this one: Hemp-and-chia guacamole is perhaps one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. Try it with bell pepper or jicama slices -- you won’t even miss the chips.
- Once you become a fan, invest in a hemp cookbook to find everything from smoothie to dessert recipes. You’ll be yummily hempin’ it in at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacktime.
In The Know
A seed revolution is occuring in our midst. Hemp, chia, flax and canary seeds are excellent, nutrient-rich choices. Since these seeds can be costly and expire quickly (most, like hemp, are best stored in the refrigerator), buy a small bag of one seed and, when finished, switch it up. Each seed has a unique nutritional profile, so enjoy the variety and keep 'em moving by spoon, fork or straw!