Pretty early on in my health food store days, I realized a critical truth about nutrition: we don’t eat nutrients. We eat food. I can tell you to eat more fibre…or get your omega 3s…but then you have to go to the grocery store and figure out how to turn my advice into a meal. So I stopped being cagey and started getting specific on my food recommendations. 

Wanna make healthy eating simpler? Focus on the foods to eat more of…so welcome to my new series, Building a Plant-Centred Pantry. Here, I will talk about the foods I try to eat more of, why they are so great and how to get more of them. It’s kind of like the long-form version of my Healthy Grocery List on Pinterest.

First up, hemp seeds. Why? Because I have been singing their praises for longer than I care to admit…and, because it’s hemp history week! Yup, it’s a thing.

What makes hemp seeds special?

Hemp seeds, which are also known as hemp hearts, are technically a tiny nut called an achene. I was a bit surprised by that one…so now you can impress your friends with super random plant knowledge.

Without a doubt, hemp is of the best sources of plant-based omega 3s to help you fight inflammation. Hemp seeds also contain a special omega 6 fatty acid called gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA. GLA is special because it is both anti-inflammatory and thought to be beneficial for women’s health and hormone balance. If your mother ever took evening primrose oil for her ‘lady problems’, it was for the GLA.

However, where most seeds are typically healthy fat + fibre, hemp seeds are a smokin’ hot source of protein. Two to three tablespoons of hemp seeds (depending on the variety) have about 10 grams of protein. Plant-based protein junkies take note! Hemp seeds are also packed with minerals that are often lacking in a hyper-processed diet, like magnesium. Magnesium is a calming mineral and important for the relaxation of smooth muscle, making it an important part of keeping your blood pressure healthy in addition to supporting blood sugar balance. As part of their heart healthy benefits, hemp hearts also contain plant sterols which help lower cholesterol. Hemp seeds also contain a reasonable amount of iron and energizing manganese.

Good for you…good for the planet

Hemp seeds are the very definition of nutrient-dense…if you want to feel more energized, eating foods like hemp is part of that equation. Of course, it’s also important to consider the impact of the food we eat on the planet. Hemp scores here, big time. Here in Canada, we grow a substantial portion of the world’s hemp. Industrial hemp is a hardy, resistant plant that requires little herbicide or pesticide to grow. It can grow a lot of places and it grows quickly. So by eating hemp, you are gaining your nutrition from an efficient, eco-friendly source…and most likely supporting Canadian farmers when you do so!

Fun fact: there are many places is the US where the cultivation of hemp is illegal, because of it’s relationship to that other Cannabis plant, Marijuana. Rest assured…you cannot get high from hemp! It does make excellent rainbow tie-dyed clothing though 😉

How to use it…and where to find it.

Healthy, yes…but one of the things I love most about hemp is that it is super easy to use. You can literally put it on anything. One of my fave ways to start the day is with a smoothie bowl loaded with Qia, a super seed cereal from my friends at Nature’s Path, that pairs hemp seed with it’s BFFs chia and buckwheat for some serious plant power. My toddler is obsessed with the Superfood bars that have Qia in them…and won’t go to play school without one.

For real, she’s a maniac about them. Do not get in her way.
Here are some other easy peasy ways of using hemp:

  • Blend 2-3 tbsp of hemp into your morning smoothie
  • Shake hemp seeds over salads, or blend into a creamy dressing
  • Stir hemp into oatmeal to boost protein and healthy fat
  • Replace up to a half cup of flour in a recipe with hemp seeds for a protein punch!
  • I also love blending hemp seed into a rich pesto with cilantro, sunflower seed and plenty of garlic.

I am a big fan of supporting Manitoba Harvest for all of their work in pioneering the use of this awesome plant – so I typically buy their plain hemp hearts. Navitas Organics also make these killer Blueberry Hemp Snacks that are perfect for travel and staying energized on the go.

What are your fave ways to use hemp? Let me know on Facebook!

Photo Credit: Joey Armstrong

Disclosure Statement: You guys know that I only provide product recommendations that I actually eat and love…because integrity matters to me.

I am a past spokesperson for Nature’s Path and have no current financial affiliation to them or Manitoba Harvest and Navitas Organics. All three are just ethical companies that make good stuff that I feel good supporting.