Most people realize the importance of a healthy diet. For instance, most people grow up informed about how important it is to eat enough protein and healthy fats and that it’s important to stay on top of our fruit and vegetable intake.1 Some of the benefits of eating a varied and healthy diet are intangible in that they take a long time to show up. Others, such as improved digestive health, can be noticed far more quickly.
The digestive system is complex, and there are many factors that can influence how you feel, from taking antibiotics to eating lots of fiber. Intestinal health, gut microbe balance, and gastric juices are a delicate system, and it’s important to take good care of it.2 Simple changes such as adding hemp seed to your soups for extra fiber could make a huge difference in how you feel.
Hemp: A Modern Superfood
Hemp seeds are packed full of nutrients, including fiber, healthy fats, protein, and numerous micronutrients. Hemp gets a lot of attention in health circles because of its association with marijuana (hemp and cannabis are related varieties of the same plant, but hemp contains almost zero THC, so you won’t get high from eating hemp).
The “seed” of hemp is technically a nut, and it has a mild but pleasant flavor. Hemp seeds are 30 percent fat and contain a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in addition to being rich in iron, magnesium, and zinc.3 The nutrient-dense nature of hemp seeds could explain why they have been used as both a food and medicine for thousands of years in China.4
Hemp and Digestion
It is the fiber content of hemp which makes it so good for your digestive health. Fiber is essential for helping foods to pass through the digestive system.5 There are two main kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
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Soluble fiber is rich in nutrients and can help to support the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Soluble fiber is also important for helping regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.6 People who are at risk of, or who suffer from, type 2 diabetes should pay attention to their fiber intake because fiber and complex carbohydrates can help keep their blood sugar more stable.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is important because it also helps regulate blood sugar, and it can add bulk to your stool so that food waste passes through your body more quickly. Hemp seeds that have not been de-hulled are rich in insoluble fiber. If the hulls have been removed and the seeds are being sold as “hemp hearts,” then you are losing the benefit of the fiber. Look for whole hemp seeds if you want the maximum digestive benefits.
Hemp and Fluid Retention
One little-known benefit of hemp seeds is that they can be helpful for women who are suffering from PMS or menopausal symptoms. Women who consume gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)—a substance that is found in hemp seeds—can benefit from a significant reduction in the symptoms of PMS, including fluid retention.7 It is thought that the GLA can help with hormone imbalances and reduce inflammation as well.8
A Good Source of Protein
Hemp seeds are rich in protein and amino acids. They are one of the few “complete” protein sources that are available to vegetarians. Many plant-based protein sources are lacking in lysine, which is an essential amino acid that cannot be produced by the body. Hemp contains this and the other essential amino acids, and it is also very easy for the body to digest, making it a good choice for those who are struggling to get enough protein from other sources.9
Using Hemp Seeds in Day-to-Day Cooking
Hemp seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. You can sprinkle them onto a salad, add them to yogurt or oatmeal, or even add them to soup or salad dressings. They have a fairly mild flavor, so most people will enjoy eating them.
The whole seeds are quite crunchy, which means that they add variety and texture to your meal. If you don’t like the crunch, then you can eat hulled seeds, or “hemp hearts,” however, you would be missing out on the benefits of the fiber if you did this. Since a lot of people choose hemp because it is filling and contains lots of fiber, it makes more sense to opt for the whole seed whenever possible.
Hemp is generally well-tolerated, and it is not something that most people are likely to be allergic to. You can eat it in fairly large quantities even if you are taking medications, and there should be nothing to worry about. It is, however, always sensible to consult your doctor before you make significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, just to be on the safe side.
If you are worried about diabetes or your cholesterol levels, then talk to your doctor for some advice about safe foods. They will be able to help you make the best choices based on your own nutritional needs. Otherwise, incorporating hemp into your diet could be a great way to not only boost your digestive health but boost your health overall.
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