7 Major Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds
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Only recently has western science begun catching on to what ancient civilizations have known for thousands of years: hemp seeds have exceptional properties that positively impact human health.
From protecting your heart to protecting your skin, there's hardly an area where this natural superfood isn't helpful. In this article, we'll be discussing 7 major health benefits of hemp seeds.
Hemp Seeds Help Prevent Heart Attacks And Strokes
Hemp seeds have no fewer than five compounds that research has shown lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and its deadliest consequences: heart attacks and strokes, which account for up to a third of all deaths in the world.
The most powerful protective effect from hemp seeds comes from their high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). You've probably heard that there are different kinds of fats and that they have very different impacts on health.
Polyunsaturated fats are known as the healthy fats because they lower blood LDL levels (the "bad cholesterol"). Saturated and trans-fats, on the other hand, raise LDL levels, increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
These healthy fatty acids make up about 40% of hemp seeds' weight. Some of the most important of hemp seed PUFA are essential fatty acids, so-called because the body needs them but can't synthesize them, meaning we need to get them through our diets.
There are eight essential fatty acids, and hemp seeds contain all of them, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 And Omega-6 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acid in hemp seeds is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), and one of its omega-6 fats is linoleic acid (LA). ALA and LA have been shown to decrease bad cholesterol and promote normal blood pressure, including lowering high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can lead to plaque build-up in arteries supplying blood to the brain and heart (atherosclerosis) which is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes.
Blood pressure is also regulated by an amino acid present in hemp seeds, called arginine. The body uses arginine to produce nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.
Another omega-6 in hemp seeds is gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). GLA is an all-around anti-inflammatory agent and also acts to reduce high blood pressure.
Additionally, hemp seeds contain a nutritionally ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, between 2-to-1 and 3-to-1.
Humans evolved with this ratio as part of our natural diet, but in modern diets, most people get far more omega-6 compared to omega-3.
This imbalance is implicated in numerous chronic diseases plaguing Western society, including cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders. Hemp seeds, therefore, help protect from these conditions by contributing to a healthier omega fatty acid balance.
Further protection against the development of blocked arteries is found in the plant sterol alcohols contained in hemp seeds.
These compounds, called aliphatic alcohols, lower cholesterol. They also inhibit the platelet aggregation that occurs in blood vessels and leads to narrowed, blocked arteries.
Hemp seeds are also an excellent source of vitamin E, also known as tocopherol. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can both prevent and treat atherosclerosis and has many general health benefits that also positively impact cardiovascular health.
Some studies even suggest that the compounds in hemp seeds can improve recovery from cardiac ischemia, a heart attack resulting from the lack of blood flow to the heart such as that caused by atherosclerosis.
Hemp Seeds Help Your Digestive System
Hemp seeds are made up of about 30% fiber, both digestible and non-digestible. Both are essential for your health.
Digestible fiber, also called soluble fiber, is broken down by the water in your system and turns into a gel that slows digestion, allowing more time for your system to process nutrients in your food.
This type of fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, which is another way hemp seeds reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Soluble fiber also slows the absorption of glucose, which helps diabetic people control blood sugar and may even cut the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Non-digestible fiber, or insoluble fiber, goes through your digestive system essentially unaltered. Because of this, it assists in pushing other food through the intestines.
Once in the colon, its role is to add bulk to the material there, which promotes regular and healthy bowel movements. This is the type of fiber people talk about to relieve and prevent constipation and diarrhea.
Diets high in fiber like that found in hemp seeds may also prevent conditions like hemorrhoids and diverticulitis by keeping the digestive system in an overall state of good health.
Remember that to get all the benefits of hemp seeds' natural fiber; you want to incorporate whole hemp seeds into your diet since much of the insoluble fiber is found in the outer hull.
Hemp Seeds Help Reduce Inflammation
As we've discussed, hemp seeds have an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids of about 2.5 to 1. That is, 2 to 3 times more omega-6 than omega-3.
In addition to reducing the risk of hardened arteries and associated strokes and heart attacks, this ratio also plays a significant role in avoiding and relieving both temporary and chronic inflammatory diseases.
The modern Western diet has a ratio vastly greater than the ideal, as most of us take in up to 17 times more omega-6 than omega-3, with those suffering from inflammatory diseases having even higher omega-6 levels.
Here's a great video about the consequences of this imbalance:
Inflammation is caused by the immune system flooding an area with extra white blood cells and other bodily chemicals like tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6.
Sometimes this is done to otherwise healthy tissues, causing disease rather than healing.
Two of the most frequent targets of this misfiring inflammation response are the skin and the joints. Arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis and other skin disorders are common examples.
Studies have found that people with much higher omega-6 levels relative to their omega-3 levels are more prone to these inflammatory diseases, as well as depression.
Hemp seeds help combat this imbalance in two ways. The first is by being a source of omega-3 fatty acids, and the second by reducing omega-6 in the diet.
Hemp Seeds Can Reduce PMS and Menopause Symptoms
We've seen that omega-6 levels that are too high can cause problems, but that doesn't mean omega-6 fatty acids aren't important. They are essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies need them but can't produce them.
Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA)
Hemp seeds contain a particularly helpful omega-6 called gamma-linoleic acid (abbreviated GLA). GLA is believed to cause body tissues to be less sensitive to a hormone called prolactin.
Prolactin is responsible for some of the unpleasant symptoms of premenstrual syndrome like bloating, depression, breast pain, and irritability.
In one study, women treated with GLA and other essential fatty acids reported significantly fewer PMS symptoms.
In another study, researchers found that hemp seeds reduced some menopause symptoms especially in cases where the ovaries had been removed.
Hemp Seeds Provide Excellent Nutrition
In addition to the specific components we discussed elsewhere, hemp seeds contain an array of other nutrients that make them like natural vitamin tablets.
They are an excellent source of potassium, iron, beta-carotene, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, as well as vitamins A, C, and E. Hemp seeds also contain some B-vitamins like B-6, thiamine, niacin, folate, and riboflavin.
Hemp seeds are especially good if you're looking for plant-based protein. Twenty-five percent of a hemp seed's calories are protein, which is more than in flaxseed or chia seeds.
A Complete Protein
Moreover, hemp seeds are a complete protein, unlike most plant proteins. This means they contain all 20 amino acids our bodies need to make the specialized proteins our various cells use. This includes the 9 "essential amino acids" that our bodies can't make themselves.
The protein from hemp seeds absorbs well into the body during digestion, which is of course an important factor in whether ingested protein winds us being useful to us or wasted.
Hemp Seeds May Help Memory And Cognition
Chinese scientists studying brain function in mice found that treating them with hemp seed extract improved their memory and learning capacities.
They theorize that hemp seeds cause an increase in the activity of calmodulin, an important and abundant protein in mammalian nervous systems.
Calmodulin enhances the brain's plasticity, which is its ability to reorganize to learn new things, and the memory needed to do so.
Mice in the study showed up to 35% higher activation of calmodulin and performed significantly better at learning and remembering how to navigate a water maze.
Hemp Seeds Help Maintain Healthy Teeth and Bones
One of the most abundant nutrients in hemp seeds is phosphorous. Hemp seeds average 1160 milligrams of phosphorous per 100 grams.
Nuts and seeds, in general, are good sources of phosphorous, but hemp seeds have more than other superfoods in this category like flaxseed and chia seeds.
Phosphorous makes up about 1% of a person's weight. It's found in every cell, but 85% is concentrated in your bones and teeth.
Phosphorous works with calcium (also found in hemp seeds) to facilitate bone growth, bone mineralization, and the maintenance of proper bone density.
Lacking enough phosphorous, a condition called hypophosphatemia, can cause rickets and other bone problems.
Bonus: Health Benefits Of Hemp Seeds Infographic
As you can see, hemp seeds are packed with nutrients and compounds that promote good health all throughout the body.
The western diet has gotten far away from what our bodies want and need, and incorporating these versatile hemp seeds into our food (and even drinks) is an easy way to do something significant for our well-being.
If you're looking to incorporate hemp seeds into your everyday meals, check out these delicious & simple hemp seed recipes
We hope you enjoyed this article and came away knowing more about the benefits of hemp seeds. However, please remember to consult a healthcare practitioner before making changes to your diet or taking supplements that may interfere with medications.
If you found this information useful, please consider sharing it with your friends and families so that they may also learn about the humble but powerful hemp seed.
Please also leave any comments or questions in the comments section--we'd love to hear from you.