Hemp hearts are the inner portion of a split hemp seed – a health food staple loaded with protein and nutrition and easy to add to all kinds of recipes!
If you’re anything like me, you probably heard of hemp hearts – aaaand had absolutely no idea what they were. I’ve been eating them for years now so they’re a pantry staple for me at this point but I wanted to add some clarity for anyone else new to this health food must.
What are hemp hearts
Hemp hearts are raw, shelled hemp seed interiors. Shelling the hemp seeds allows for more nutrition to be absorbed in eating them since the inner heart of the seed is exposed. They have a soft texture and a nutty taste.
You can eat them raw as is in sprinkled into smoothies, cereal, or salads or cook them into granola bars, oatmeal, burgers, granola, or pretty much anything really. They’re so versatile!
And, with all the buzz around hemp, you might be wondering how hemp hearts are related to cannabis. Hemp is in the cannabis sativa species but differs greatly from the THC laden cannabis sativa varieties that are sold at dispensaries.
While in the same family as marijuana, hemp plants have very little THC and are used typically used for the stalk, CBD, or other non-psychoactive properties, depending on the strain. Hemp must legally be under .3% TCH in the United States compared to THC-high strains of cannabis sativa that typically range anywhere from 8-30% THC.
Hemp heart benefits and nutrition
With all of the other health food items the world is trying to sell you, why choose hemp hearts? Well my friends, hemp hearts are absolutely phenomenal for your body.
Hemp hearts have twice the amount of protein that chia and flax seeds do and less carbs. They’re also loaded with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and other essential nutrients. In fact, hemp hearts have all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need making it a complete protein source.
Here are some of the key things that make hemp hearts an excellent addition to your diet:
- High protein
- High in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
- Low carb
- Gluten free
- Sodium free
- Nut allergy safe
- Excellent for diets like Paleo, Whole 30, Keto, macro, etc.
- Low glycemic index
- Full of healthy fats
- High in micronutrients (iron, zinc, thiamine, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese)
Where to buy them
While they used to be more of a specialty health item, these days, you can find them at your local grocery store, Costco, Amazon, health stores, or many other places. They’re typically next to the nuts and seeds or in the baking isle but I’ve also seen them in the refrigerated area. Stores like Whole Foods may even have them in the bulk section so you can buy the amount you want without the extra packaging.
Due to their oil content, hemp hearts have a pretty short shelf life. Since they are a seed, you need to keep an eye on the expiration date and store in a sealed container in a cool, dry, dark place or in the refrigerator. They will keep fresh for 5-6 months in the cupboard and up to a year in the refrigerator or freezer.
I used to buy mine at Costco but now, I choose to buy smaller amounts through my local grocery store. Even though it seems like it costs more, it really doesn’t when you consider how much product will most likely go bad with a big Costco sized bag. Unless you’re eating them at a rapid pace, you probably won’t go through that bag as fast as you think you will.
I keep a small plastic bin in the refrigerator with jars for hemp hearts, chia seeds, flax and nuts to help keep all of this organized. They’ll have a rancid smell if they go bad. The smell can be faint though so I recommend marking the bottom of your storage container with a piece of masking tape and the best by date. Once the oils start going bad, they’ll give off a bitter taste instead of the nutty flavor they typically have.
Ways to use hemp hearts
Hemp hearts are so versatile, the options are truly endless. Here are a few good ways to use them:
- On top of avocado toast
- On toast with peanut butter and jam or honey and banana slices
- In a salad (toast them first for a more aromatic flavor)
- On top of oatmeal
- On popcorn
- Sprinkled in a sandwich
- In smoothies
- Baked into muffins, cookies, bread or other baked goodies
- In energy balls like these
- In pancakes
- Sprinkled on top of hummus
- In tabbouleh like this Eating Bird Food recipe
There are so many other uses too – far too many to list. If you’re already eating hemp hearts, good for you! If you’re new to them but eager to try, pick some up and just go small at first, sprinkling them into whatever you’re eating. Gradually work them into more of your meals and enjoy!