Whether you're following the keto diet, the Paleo diet or most any other diet out there, seeds are high on the list of must-haves. And when it comes to health-promoting seeds, hemp doesn't take a back seat to any of them.
Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, supply awesome amounts of complete protein (containing all the essential amino acids) and other nutrients, all in a nut-flavored package. And because hemp is an eco-friendly crop, munching on hemp seeds is as good for the environment as it is for you.
What is Hemp?
If you've wondered if hemp is related to cannabis, you're right: Both are types of Cannabis sativa. However, hemp contains negligible levels of THC, the psychoactive component that some cannabis varieties are known for.
Hemp is a farmer's dream: Ridiculously easy to grow, it smothers weeds and matures quickly. It even improves soil health, meaning that farmers can plant another food crop right after a hemp harvest without having to let the land rest beforehand. Hemp is versatile, too. Besides such traditional usages as cloth and paper, hemp has shown promise as a bio-fuel, building material and feedstock for plastics.
Hemp seeds are a rich source of magnesium and essential fatty acids, and the fiber they contain supports healthy digestion. They actually contain nearly as much protein as soybeans, with more than nine grams in every 30 grams. (What hemp seeds don’t contain is CBD, which is only found in the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant.)
Using Hemp Seeds in the Kitchen
- Sprinkle them on top of unsweetened Greek yogurt, eggs, whole grain cereal or salads (they beat premade croutons).
- You can also top yogurt with homemade granola that incorporates hemp seeds and other healthy ingredients such as steel-cut oats, dried fruit and chopped or sliced nuts; this lets you avoid the added sugars common in commercial granolas.
- Use them as a substitute for breadcrumbs when coating fish or chicken, especially if you are sensitive to gluten.
- Add to smoothies; the seeds' flavor goes well with bananas. In fact, you can even peel a banana, roll it in nut butter and roll it again in hemp seeds for a great post-workout snack.
- When making pesto, swap out the pine nuts for hemp seeds; this sauce makes a flavorful topping for chicken or grilled veggies in addition to its traditional use on top of pasta.
- You can also make your own hemp milk. Just put a cup of raw shelled seeds, three cups of water and a pinch of sea salt in a blender and blend at high speed for up to 60 seconds. If using your milk in recipes, it's a good idea to strain it first for a smoother product.
Like the seeds themselves, hemp seed oil has become popular. Look for an oil that's raw, cold-pressed and certified organic; the color is generally a deep, rich green. The flavor has been described as “nutty” or “earthy,” making it a good pairing for bolder-tasting, more savory foods instead of lighter, sweeter fare.
Always store hemp seed oil in the fridge, as its high omega content leaves it prone to spoilage if left at room temperature for more than a few days. For that reason, never heat hemp seed oil. Instead, use it in salad dressings, as a bread dip or in foods such as homemade hummus.
Hemp Seed Recipes
1. Fruit smoothie with hemp seeds
Blend two cups of your favorite fresh or frozen fruit with a cup of dairy or nondairy milk, a handful of ice cubes, and a teaspoon of raw hemp seeds.
2. Banana and hemp seed muffins
Mix 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds with 6 tablespoons warm water and set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix a cup of all-purpose gluten-free or spelt flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, 1-1/2 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt.
Add two ripe, mashed bananas, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar and 1/2 cup melted coconut oil or grapeseed oil to the bowl with the flax seeds and mix well.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add 1/4 cup hemp seeds and stir. Scoop into a lined muffin pan and bake at 325° for 25–30 minutes.
3. Maple date granola
Mix 3/4 cup maple syrup and six chopped, pitted Medjool dates in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling until slightly reduced and the dates are softened.
Mash the dates to break them down, then mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups gluten-free oats, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, 1/4 cup flax seeds, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Press into an even layer with another sheet of parchment.
Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Stir and pat back down, then tent the cookie sheet with foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
Repeat and bake for five more minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool almost completely. Break into pieces and enjoy.
4. Carrot cake chia pudding
Layer 1/4 cup cooked quinoa, 1/4 cup raw grated carrots, 2 tablespoons hemp hearts, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt in an airtight container.
Top with 1/2–3/4 cup light coconut milk. If you add 1/2 cup milk, add another 1/4 cup water to the top.
Cover and place in the fridge for at least two hours. Top with sliced banana, additional grated carrots, chopped dates and/or walnuts, and enjoy.
5. Hemp seed pesto
Combine 2 cups of fresh basil leaves (loosely packed), 1/4 cup hemp seeds, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, 2–3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and a clove of garlic in a food processor.
Add kosher salt to taste and process until smooth, stopping as needed to scrape the sides of the bowl.
How to Store Hemp Seeds
After you open the package, place the contents in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer; the seeds can last up to a year this way. If you choose to keep them in a pantry or cupboard, the shelf life drops to about three to four months. Be sure to smell the seeds before you use them in a recipe. If they smell rancid, toss them and get a fresh bag.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.