The best hemp seed
If you're looking to add more plant-based protein to your diet -- or simply some added crunch to a meal -- look no further than hemp seeds. These tiny seeds are highly nutritious and pack in high fiber, complete protein, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and minerals. Many nutrition experts consider hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts) to be a superfood because they are so nutrient dense.
Read this shopping guide to learn more about hemp seeds' health benefits as well as what you need to know before purchasing a product. We've also included reviews of our top picks at the end, like Navitas Organics' Organic Hemp Seeds, which provides that much-needed burst of energy in the morning.
Considerations when choosing hemp seeds
Nutrient profile of hemp seeds
Adding hemp seeds to your diet has a whole host of health benefits. Here's a breakdown of these super-seeds' healthy components.
Gamma-linolenic acid: Hemp seeds stand out for their rich omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. GLA may help alleviate a number of conditions from PMS to heart disease to arthritis pain -- or other chronic conditions that can benefit from this anti-inflammatory fatty acid.
Complete protein: Hemps seeds are considered a perfect plant-based protein because they contain all 20 amino acids (the building blocks to protein), including nine amino acids that our body can't produce itself. Two tablespoons of hemp seeds boast around nine grams of protein, making hemp hearts an excellent choice to blend into your morning smoothie to power your day.
Fatty acids: Besides the powerhouse omega-6 gamma-linolenic acid, hemp seeds contain omega-3s in an ideal 3:1 balance (of omega-3s to omega-6s) that is optimal for heart health. This fatty acid profile also naturally reduces inflammation levels and strengthens the immune system. While hemp seeds are high in fat (around two grams in two tablespoons), these fatty acids are considered healthy fats.
High in fiber: Most people don't get enough fiber in the standard American diet. Fiber keeps your gastrointestinal system regular and can improve digestion. The insoluble fiber contained in hemps seeds (along with their low carb/high fat profile) can help suppress your appetite if you're trying to lose weight. Two tablespoons of hemp seeds contain two grams of fiber.
Minerals: Lastly, hemp seeds are packed with a plethora of minerals that your body needs to function like zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium. They also contain the antioxidant vitamin E, known to have cancer-fighting properties.
Hemp seeds come in a variety of packaging. Bulk mylar bags with airtight closures ensure freshness (hemp hearts are susceptible to spoilage). Stand-up, resealable, plastic pouches are the most common packaging, and also protect the seeds from going rancid. Plastic jars or tubs are another option and may come with a convenient measuring scoop.
Hulled or shelled
Most hemp seeds are sold shelled, which means a mechanical process has removed the outer shell of the seeds and sterilized them for storage. Unhulled hemp seeds are not as widely available and may be too "crunchy" for the average consumer. Hemp seeds that are sold "raw" or "cold-pressed" means they haven't been heat sterilized in the hulling process.
Most "health nuts" prefer organic products, which haven't been treated with chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Certified organic hemp seeds are easy to find and are also non-GMO.
Hemp seeds range in price from 46 cents to $1.17 an ounce. For instance, a 16-ounce package of shelled hemp seeds may cost around $10, while a package that size of organic hemp hearts may cost around $16.
Q. Will ingesting hemp seeds get me high?
A. No. Although hemp seeds are from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, the same species of plant as marijuana, they only contain trace amounts of the mind-altering substance THC. Hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, whereas the marijuana plant can contain upward of 30% THC.
Q. How can I add hemp seeds to my diet?
A. Because hemp seeds are so tiny, eating them alone or by the handful is challenging. Most consumers blend hemp seeds into their smoothies or sprinkle them on top of meals, like their morning cereal or yogurt, into salads, or onto savory dishes.
Hemp seeds we recommend
Best of the best: Navitas Organics' Organic Hemp Seeds
Our take: A premium brand that offers the best quality organic super-seeds, like these low-heat shelled hemp seeds.
What we like: Though not technically raw, they are hulled at a low temperature to retain nutritional value. Organic, kosher, and non-GMO. Boosts energy, especially when ingested in the morning.
What we dislike: The bag isn't resealable, so you'll have to transfer the product to an airtight container to maintain freshness.
Best bang for your buck: Manitoba Harvest's Hemp Hearts
Our take: A well-packaged, affordable one-pound bag of quality hemp hearts.
What we like: Hemp seeds are shelled and raw. Seeds blend completely in most blenders when mixed into a smoothie. Resealable bag keeps moisture out. Great flavor.
What we dislike: While these seeds are non-GMO, they aren't organic.
Choice 3: Just Hemp Foods' Hulled Hemp Seeds
Our take: Subtle-tasting, shelled hemp seeds that you can sneak into dishes to up their nutritional value.
What we like: Each serving size contains 10 grams of protein. Seeds' flavor easily masked when added into dishes. Resealable bag. Can be added to baked goods.
What we dislike: Some consumers find hulls left in the bag.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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