Are Hemp Seeds Worth the Hype? Here Are 3 Science-Backed Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Nutrient-dense seeds, like flax seeds and chia seeds, aren’t just the latest hype in the “superfood” aisle. While they’re certainly not a cure-all, they are a great addition to a healthy diet—particularly for plant-based athletes. 

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As alternative products rise in wellness, hemp seeds—which don’t get you high—have entered the scene. They’re high in protein, healthy fats, and other micronutrients you need. Here’s the scoop on the biggest benefits of hemp seeds.

Key Takeaways

Hemp seeds have many benefits, including improving heart, immune, brain, and skin health, as well as being a good source of protein and versatile kitchen ingredient.

They are high in protein at 9.48 grams per 3 tablespoons, and provide all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete source of protein. (1)

Hemp seeds are most popularly used as a smoothie mix-in, salad or yogurt topping, or as an ingredient in protein bars.

What Are Hemp Seeds?

Hemp seeds are the seeds of the Cannabis sativa L plant. The Cannabis sativa plant yields several different compounds that can be split into cannabinoids and industrial hemp. Cannabinoids include: 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): the psychoactive compound found in cannabis or marijuana that produces a high feeling

Cannabidiol (CBD): not psychoactive and may have medicinal properties. (2)

Industrial hemp involves a range of products, including hemp seeds, hemp seed oil, hemp oil, and hemp milk. Hemp seeds have less than 0.3 percent THC, do not have a psychoactive effect, and they’re nutritionally dense. They’re high in essential amino acids, fatty acids, insoluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. (3)

[Read More: Ways to Eat More Protein to Pack on Muscle Mass]

Although hemp seeds are not supposed to contain THC, research finds some hemp products have higher levels of THC than indicated. They may cause side effects. (4)

Hemp Seed Nutrition Facts

If you’re eating them as a snack, they’re usually hulled hemp seeds, which are crunchy with a nutty flavor. You may also see hemp hearts, which are the inner part of the hemp seed and have a similar nutritional profile. 

A three-tablespoon serving of hulled hemp seeds contains the following nutrition facts. (5)

166 calories

9.48 grams of protein

14.6 grams of fat

2.6 grams of carbohydrates

1.2 grams of insoluble fiber

21 milligrams of calcium

2.38 milligrams of iron

210 milligrams of magnesium

495 milligrams of phosphorus

360 milligrams of potassium

Hemp seeds are a “superfood” because they’re packed with tons of nutrients. They’re high in the essential fatty acids gamma-linolenic acid (GLA or omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA or omega-3). They have a ratio of 2:5 to 3:1 in GLA to ALA, which research suggests is ideal for heart health. (6)

Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce inflammation and improve recovery for strength athletes. (7)

Hemp seeds are a complete protein source; they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle. They are particularly high in arginine, an amino acid that creates nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow and boost athletic performance. They’re a gluten-free, plant-based protein source ideal for strength athletes with (and without) dietary restrictions. (8)

Hemp seeds are also rich in vitamin E, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. (8)

Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Considering tossing some seeds into your post-workout smoothie? Hemp seeds’ potential health benefits go beyond their containing muscle-building plant-based protein. 

[Read More: Why More Athletes Should Look to Vegan Protein Benefits (Brought to You by Ample)]

Due to their high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids and essential amino acids, research suggests eating hemp seeds can help improve cardiovascular and brain health, boost your immune system, and alleviate skin conditions. They also seem to have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. (9)(10)

They’re a Complete Plant-Based Protein Source

When focusing on eating enough protein to build muscle or recover from workouts, you want to be sure you’re getting high-quality “complete” protein. There are 20 amino acids, nine of which are essential—meaning your body can’t make them on your own—that you must get through your diet. You need all 20 for muscle hypertrophy to occur after resistance training. (11)

Animal-based protein sources and supplements tend to have them all, but if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you may have to combine a few protein sources to get everything you need. Hemp seeds (along with soy and quinoa) are already a complete protein source, and they’re high in the amino acids arginine, methionine, and cystine. (12)

Credit: NADKI / Shutterstock

[Read More: Benefits of Protein for Health and Performance]

Arginine leads to nitric oxide synthesis. Arginine, methionine, and glycine together can also lead to creatine synthesis. Both nitric oxide and creatine can improve exercise performance, so getting more of these amino acids through hemp seeds can help strength athletes. (13)

The protein in hemp seeds is also highly bioavailable, meaning it can be rapidly absorbed and digested, making them a great option to refuel your muscles in a post-workout protein shake. (14)

Eating Them May Help Improve Heart Health

To lower your risk of heart disease, you want to try to maintain healthy levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Hemp seeds, which contain important nutrients that promote these heart health markers, can be a great addition to your diet.

Research suggests that hemp seeds can improve heart health and help prevent heart disease because of their high content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Studies also show that people who have diets high in arginine tend to have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. Hemp seeds may also help manage healthy cholesterol levels, but studies have been mixed. (8)

[Read More: How Much Protein Do You Actually Need Per Day?]

Research suggests the following amounts of hemp oil or hemp protein may benefit these heart health markers:

25 grams of hemp protein daily for blood pressure (3)

40 grams of hemp protein for blood sugar (15)

Two to three grams of hemp oil daily for cholesterol (3)

May Help Skin Conditions

There are many hemp products made with hemp seed oil to treat skin conditions. 

Hemp seed oil can be used in sunscreen because it may help absorb ultraviolet rays and is high in vitamin E. (12)

The polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and vitamin E in hemp seed oil can help alleviate dry skin. (16)

Research suggests that PUFAs in hemp seed oil can also help to reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema). Taking 30 milliliters of hemp oil daily may help with eczema. (3)(17)

May Reduce PMS and Menopause Symptoms

Some studies suggest that the gamma-linoleic acid in hemp seeds could help reduce some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause. It may help to improve hormone imbalances and reduce inflammation. (18)(19)

How to Use Hemp Seeds in Your Diet

If you want to add hemp seeds to your diet, here are a few ideas. 

Smoothies: Add hemp seeds into a smoothie; they’ll blend well.

Protein Shakes: You can get hemp protein powder and use it as your protein source. 

Baked Goods: Use hemp seeds or hemp protein powder in homemade protein bars or energy balls.

Toppings: Add hemp seeds to top off your salads, Greek yogurt, or oatmeal bowls. 

Cook With It: Any time you use olive oil when you’re cooking, you can try using hemp seed oil instead. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What do hemp seeds do for your body?

Aside from being a plant-based protein source, hemp seeds are high in essential fatty acids that may boost your heart health, reduce inflammation, and help skin conditions. They’re also high in many other vitamins and minerals.

Are hemp seeds good to eat every day?

Sure, you can eat them every day. They are high in fiber, so try eating them once and see how they work with your digestion.

What are the healing benefits of hemp?

Hemp seems to improve and protect skin conditions and fight inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids in hemp could also improve muscle recovery.


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Cerino P, Buonerba C, Cannazza G, D’Auria J, Ottoni E, Fulgione A, Di Stasio A, Pierri B, Gallo A. A Review of Hemp as Food and Nutritional Supplement. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2021 Feb 12;6(1):19-27. 

Yang Y, Lewis MM, Bello AM, Wasilewski E, Clarke HA, Kotra LP. Cannabis sativa (Hemp) Seeds, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, and Potential Overdose. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017 Oct 1;2(1):274-281. 

USDA. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Galasso I, Russo R, Mapelli S, Ponzoni E, Brambilla IM, Battelli G, Reggiani R. Variability in Seed Traits in a Collection of Cannabis sativa L. Genotypes. Front Plant Sci. 2016 May 20;7:688. 

Thielecke F, Blannin A. Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Sport Performance-Are They Equally Beneficial for Athletes and Amateurs? A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 30;12(12):3712. 

Rodriguez-Leyva D, Pierce GN. The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Apr 21;7:32. 

Zhou Y, Wang S, Ji J, Lou H, Fan P. Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Seed Phenylpropionamides Composition and Effects on Memory Dysfunction and Biomarkers of Neuroinflammation Induced by Lipopolysaccharide in Mice. ACS Omega. 2018 Nov 30;3(11):15988-15995. 

Tănase Apetroaei, Virginia, Eugenia Mihaela Pricop, Daniela Ionela Istrati, and Camelia Vizireanu. 2024. “Hemp Seeds (Cannabis sativa L.) as a Valuable Source of Natural Ingredients for Functional Foods—A Review” Molecules 29, no. 9: 2097.

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