Hemp is acclaimed for having a wide variety of health benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol levels to regulating digestion. Usually consumed as either hulled hemp seeds or as hemp oil, this plant-derived product contains high levels of essential fatty acids, protein, and fiber, but almost no carbohydrates. An easily digestible nutrient, hemp can easily be incorporated into the everyday diet by adding it to daily meals.
The many health benefits of hemp can generally be associated with one of its three main components: fatty acids, protein, and fiber. Omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids are all found in hemp seed and hemp oil. These are essential fatty acids, meaning the human body needs them to function properly but is not capable of making them, so they must be consumed in food. Essential fatty acids are linked with lower cholesterol levels and heart health. Unlike animal fats, one of the benefits of hemp is that it contains no saturated fat, only heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat.
The health benefits of hemp as a source of essential fatty acids also extend to the brain. Fatty acids are associated with brain health and the prevention or retardation of neurodegenerative diseases. The onset of conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases may be delayed by consuming a diet rich in hemp. Similarly, hemp can cause the symptoms of these diseases to be reduced or their progression slowed.
Protein is another one of the health benefits of hemp. The hemp seed is very high in complete protein, making it an ideal low-carbohydrate, plant-derived source of this important macronutrient. Consuming enough protein is essential to muscle growth and strength. Vegans, who do not eat animal products, stand to benefit tremendously from hemp as a way to increase their protein intake while respecting dietary restrictions. In fact, hemp is such a good source of protein that it has been tapped for use in protein powders and supplements.
Fiber plays an important role in the health benefits of hemp. Like other seeds, hemp is extremely high in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion. Hemp has the added benefit of being a gluten-free source of fiber, which makes it easy to digest and suitable for gluten-intolerant individuals. Oil pressed from hemp seeds will not contain fiber, but the seeds themselves are surprisingly easy to incorporate into daily meals. Stirring hemp seeds into yogurt, baking them into muffins or crackers, or adding them to cereal are easy ways to reap the health benefits of hemp.