People use hemp seeds and oils to produce a variety of food products including hemp milk, hemp oil, hemp cheese substitutes and hemp-based protein powder.

Industrial hemp is a class of cannabis sativa that contains no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the production of industrial hemp. People grow hemp for a variety of medicinal and industrial uses.

THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis plants. This compound binds with receptors in the brain and produces the “high” that many feel when consuming products with high THC content.

This article provides a nutritional breakdown of hemp and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how a person can incorporate more hemp into their diet, and any potential health risks of consuming hemp.

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People typically process industrial hemp into one of three forms.

Hemp oils may contain plant content from the hemp plant’s leaves, seeds, or stems, whereas hemp seed oil processing exclusively uses seeds.

Hemp seeds and hemp oils are the primary forms that people use for dietary or nutritional purposes.

Uses

Hemp seeds are a nutrient-dense foodstuff with a variety of uses. People often use hemp seeds as part of savory and sweet dishes for their mild, nutty flavor.

Hemp seeds should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Most hemp products require refrigeration after opening.

People can incorporate hemp products into their diet in several ways, including:

  • using hemp seed oil to make a salad dressing
  • sprinkling some hemp seeds on salads, rice pilafs, oatmeal, or yogurt
  • adding hemp seeds to baked goods such as whole wheat muffins

People can also use hemp seeds and oils as the basis of dairy-replacement products, including:

  • hemp milk substitutes
  • hemp cheese substitutes
  • hemp protein powder

CBD products from hemp are also available.

For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.

The nutritional content of hemp products is associated with a number of potential health benefits.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats, including Omega-3 fatty acids, are important to a person’s overall health. The three main Omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Hemp seeds and oils are a plant-based source of concentrated ALA. According to the National Institutes of Health, adult men require around 1.6 grams (g) of ALA per day, while women require 1.1 g. Hemp seeds contain 2.6 g of ALA per 30 g, which is roughly 3 tablespoons (tbsp).

Hemp also contains a specific omega-6 fatty acid called GLA, and hemp oil contains an even higher percentage of GLA.

Hemp seeds also contain phytosterols, which help reduce the amount of cholesterol in the body by removing fat build-up in the arteries.

Protein source

Hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids and are a rich protein source. This makes hemp seeds and products using hemp seeds a good protein source for people following a vegan diet.

Per 100 g, hemp seeds contain more than 30 g of protein.

Magnesium

Hemp is a great source of magnesium – 30 g of hemp seeds contains 210 milligrams (mg) of magnesium.

Magnesium plays an important role within the body, including the metabolism of food and the synthesis of fatty acids and proteins. It also assists in neuromuscular transmission and activity and muscle relaxation.

Magnesium deficiency — which is especially prevalent in older populations — has links to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, a 3 tbsp serving of hemp seeds weighing 30 g contains:

Hemp seeds also provide vitamin C, some B vitamins, and vitamins A and E.

Eating hemp seeds and hemp seed products is typically safe as part of a balanced diet.

However, hemp contains antinutritional compounds that impact the absorption of minerals in the body. For example, a 2020 review found hemp seeds to be high in phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of iron and other minerals.

One older 2007 study found that hemp seeds also inhibit platelet formation and interact with blood-thinning medications, causing a higher risk of bleeding. If a person is taking these medications, they should talk with their doctor before consuming a large amount of hemp.

Although industrial hemp should not contain high levels of THC, this may still occur in the manufacturing process. A 2017 study found that some commercial varieties of hemp seeds contained up to 1,250% of the legal amount of THC.

Industrial hemp products can provide a number of nutritional benefits when part of a balanced diet. Seeds of the hemp plant are high in protein, healthful fats, and magnesium. People can incorporate these into their diets in both sweet and savory dishes.

Unlike the kind of cannabis that people traditionally use for recreational purposes, hemp contains incredibly low levels of THC. However, regulation and research into hemp-based products are still evolving.

People wishing to purchase these goods should always do so through reputable retailers. It may also be beneficial for people to consult their doctor before starting to use CBD products.