Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Are Hemp Seeds Bad For You?



Short answer

No, hemp seeds are not bad for you. In fact, they are considered a nutritious addition to the diet, providing a balance of essential omega fatty acids, complete protein, dietary fiber, and important vitamins and minerals. They can support heart health, reduce inflammation, and are useful in a plant-based diet. However, they may have blood-thinning properties and could cause allergic reactions in some individuals, or interact with certain medications. Always choose high-quality, tested products to avoid contamination risks. Moderation is key in dietary inclusion.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a nutritional powerhouse that boasts an impressive profile of beneficial nutrients. One of the most revered aspects of hemp seeds is their rich content of essential fatty acids, which include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a ratio that is favorable for human health. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the nutritional benefits they offer.

  • Protein Content: Hemp seeds are a complete protein source, which means they provide all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own. With about 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons, they are a great addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
  • Fatty Acids: They consist of approximately 30% fat and offer an ideal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, prompting positive implications for cardiovascular health. The gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in hemp seeds has been linked to reduced inflammation.
  • Fiber: Whole hemp seeds are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which contribute to a healthy digestive system. However, de-hulled or shelled hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, contain very little fiber.
  • Minerals and Vitamins: They are a rich source of phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc. Hemp seeds also contain vitamins like vitamin E, which serves as a powerful antioxidant.
  • Phytosterols: These plant-based compounds, which resemble cholesterol structurally, are found in hemp seeds and are known for helping lower cholesterol levels.

A detailed breakdown of the nutritional content for a 30-gram serving (approximately 3 tablespoons) of hulled hemp seeds is as follows:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 166
Protein 9.47 g
Total Fat 14.62 g
Carbohydrates 2.60 g
Fiber 1.2 g
Sugar 0.45 g
Iron 2.38 mg
Magnesium 210 mg
Phosphorus 495 mg
Potassium 360 mg
Sodium 1.5 mg
Zinc 3.90 mg
Vitamin E 0.50 mg

It's important to note that the quality of the nutrients found in hemp seeds is just as significant as the quantity. The protein in hemp seeds, for example, is highly digestible and more readily absorbed by the body compared to many other plant proteins. Similarly, the fatty acids in hemp seeds are predominantly in the form of unsaturated fats, which include beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Hemp seeds' nutritional content is not only balanced but also diverse, providing a symphony of nutrients required for a healthy diet. Clinical research, such as that published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, indicates that the consumption of hemp seeds could have various health benefits, ranging from improved heart health to reduced symptoms of PMS and menopause, thanks mainly to the fatty acid profile and the presence of GLA.

In summary, the nutritional profile of hemp seeds is extensive and dense. With a mix of essential fatty acids, proteins, fiber, and a suite of vitamins and minerals, they can play a valuable role in any diet. When considering incorporating hemp seeds into your eating plan, it's always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any existing health concerns or dietary restrictions.

Potential Allergic Reactions and Cross-Reactivity

Like many natural foods, hemp seeds have the potential to cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Hemp seed allergies are less common than allergies to nuts or dairy, but they are a concern for those with plant-based allergens. Individuals with a sensitivity to hemp should be cautious, as allergenic proteins in hemp seeds could trigger symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Allergic reactions can include symptoms such as:

  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling of lips, tongue, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Anaphylaxis in extreme cases (though rare)

In addition to direct allergies to hemp seeds, there is a phenomenon known as cross-reactivity. Cross-reactivity occurs when the proteins in one substance (such as hemp seeds) are similar in structure to those in another substance (like other seeds, nuts, or plants), potentially prompting an allergic response in individuals sensitive to those other substances.

For instance, one study noted in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported a possible cross-reactivity between hemp seeds and hazelnuts or peanuts, substances known for their allergenic potential (source). Therefore, individuals with existing allergies to nuts might need to exercise caution with hemp seeds.

It is important to consult with a healthcare provider or an allergist if you suspect a hemp seed allergy or have experienced symptoms after consuming hemp seeds. An allergist can conduct specific tests to determine whether hemp seeds or other foods might be the cause of adverse reactions.

Moreover, if you have a known sensitivity to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it's important to note that while hemp seeds themselves contain only trace amounts of THC—if any at all—cross-contamination during processing can potentially increase these levels, although such instances are rare.

In terms of general considerations, introducing hemp seeds gradually into your diet and monitoring your body’s response can help you avoid allergic responses. If you're trying a new food for the first time and are concerned about allergies, eating a small amount and waiting for any signs of an adverse reaction before consuming more can be a wise approach to identifying potential allergens.

Hemp Seeds: Blood Thinning Properties to Consider

As a highly nutritious food, hemp seeds are praised for their balance of essential fatty acids, proteins, and a variety of minerals. However, an aspect of hemp seeds that warrants careful consideration is their potential blood-thinning properties. This facet is particularly crucial for individuals with blood disorders, those taking blood-thinning medications, or preparing for surgery.

One of the reasons behind the blood-thinning effects of hemp seeds is their rich content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), may possess anticoagulant properties, reducing blood clot formation and impacting bleeding time. Scientific research, including studies published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, supports the role of omega-3 fatty acids in promoting cardiovascular health through various mechanisms, including blood thinning.

In addition to omega-3s, hemp seeds contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), another fatty acid that might contribute to their effect on blood consistency and flow. While GLA does not have as direct an anticoagulant effect as omega-3 fats, it’s an anti-inflammatory agent and can indirectly influence blood viscosity and vessel health.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds can have a blood-thinning effect.
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) present in hemp seeds may indirectly affect blood flow.

For the general population, the properties of hemp seeds that influence blood coagulation can be beneficial. However, individuals who are already on blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin) or those with coagulation disorders should be extra cautious. The combination of medication and hemp seed consumption could potentially enhance the effects of the drugs, leading to an increased risk of bleeding.

Experts recommend that those preparing for surgery should disclose their use of any supplements or dietary habits, including hemp seed consumption, to their healthcare practitioners, as they may be advised to modify their diet in the weeks leading up to the procedure.

If you’re considering adding hemp seeds to your diet and you have concerns about their blood-thinning properties, it’s always a good approach to consult with your healthcare provider. They can offer personalized advice that considers your unique health background and any medications you might be taking.

Remember that while dietary choices can indeed support health, they can also have unintended interactions with our medical conditions and treatments. Awareness and informed decision-making are paramount when including foods like hemp seeds in a health-conscious diet.

  • Consult with healthcare providers if on blood thinners or have clotting disorders.
  • Be aware of the potential for increased bleeding risk when combining hemp seeds with blood thinner medications.
  • Discuss hemp seed consumption with a doctor prior to any surgical procedures.

Ultimately, acknowledging that hemp seeds can affect blood clotting is essential. While this property may offer cardiovascular benefits, it is also a potential concern for those with certain health conditions or on specific medications. A cautious and informed approach ensures that hemp seeds can be incorporated into a diet in a manner that is both safe and nutritionally beneficial.

Balance of Omega Fatty Acids in Hemp Seeds and Health Implications

Hemp seeds, the small, brown seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant, have garnered significant attention in the health and wellness community, particularly for their balanced omega fatty acid profile. Unlike many other seeds and nuts, hemp seeds offer a rare and beneficial ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This balance is crucial for maintaining optimal health and preventing chronic diseases.

The typical Western diet is heavily skewed toward a high omega-6 and low omega-3 fatty acid intake, contributing to inflammation and an increased risk of various health issues. Hemp seeds, however, contain a more favorable balance, with a ratio of roughly 3:1 for omega-6 to omega-3. Furthermore, the primary omega-6 fatty acid present in hemp seeds is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is considered to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Here is a breakdown of the omega fatty acid content in hemp seeds:

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Includes linoleic acid and GLA
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning the body cannot produce it, and it must be obtained through diet. Evidence suggests that consumption of ALA from plant sources like hemp seeds can have cardiovascular benefits. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, higher dietary intake of ALA has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

The anti-inflammatory effects of GLA in hemp seeds may also have health implications. A study cited in the European Journal of Pharmacology found that GLA supplementation could reduce inflammation, potentially aiding in conditions like arthritis, and may also contribute to improving skin health, as per research in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment.

It’s important to note that while hemp seeds have a balanced omega fatty acid profile, they should not be the sole source of fatty acids in your diet. The body requires a variety of dietary sources to maintain optimal health. Incorporating hemp seeds into a diet rich in fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts can help ensure a balanced intake of both plant and animal-based omega fatty acids.

When considering their health implications, hemp seeds are generally seen as a wholesome addition to the diet due to their omega fatty acid balance. Their nutrient profile can support anti-inflammatory responses in the body and may contribute to cardiovascular, skin, and overall health when included as part of a varied and balanced diet.

Ultimately, the balance of omega fatty acids in hemp seeds can be considered beneficial and is unlikely to contribute to the negative health outcomes associated with the disproportionate omega-6 to omega-3 ratios found in many processed foods and vegetable oils. As always, moderation and variety are key in any diet, and including hemp seeds as one of many sources of essential fatty acids can play a part in achieving dietary balance.

Risk of Contamination and Regulation of Hemp Seed Products

When discussing the safety of hemp seeds, one crucial aspect to examine is the potential risk of contamination. Hemp plants have a strong ability to absorb contaminants from the soil they are grown in, making them potential carriers for various heavy metals or other pollutants.

This bioaccumulation can lead to heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic being present in hemp seeds, which may pose health risks if consumed in large quantities over time. The consumption of these contaminants has been associated with a range of health issues, including but not limited to, neurotoxic effects, kidney damage, and disruptions in the reproductive, immune, and cardiovascular systems.

Moreover, due to hemp’s close relationship to cannabis, there has been concern over tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in hemp seeds. THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. While hemp is specifically grown to have low THC levels, cross-contamination can occur, leading to higher-than-expected THC concentrations in hemp seed products.

As for regulations, there is a diverse landscape. In the United States, for instance, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp and provided a federal framework for hemp farming, effectively removing hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not provide as strict regulation for hemp seed products as it does for other food items. This means that requirements for testing, labeling, and the permissible levels of contaminants in hemp seeds may be less comprehensive or standardized.

To safeguard against these risks, it's pertinent to choose hemp seeds and hemp seed products from reputable sources that provide clear information about their farming practices, including soil quality and contaminant testing. Some companies may offer certified organic hemp seeds, which are less likely to contain high levels of pesticides or other hazardous substances.

  • Opt for brands that explicitly state they test their products for THC and heavy metal content.
  • Look for certification labels like USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, which can indicate a higher standard of production quality and safety.
  • Consult the company's website or customer service for more information about their product testing and sourcing if it's not clearly detailed on the packaging.

In summary, while hemp seeds are generally considered safe and nutritious, potential contamination with heavy metals and THC is a legitimate concern. Responsible sourcing and awareness of regulatory standards are essential to minimize any potential health risks associated with consuming these products.

Incorporating Hemp Seeds into a Balanced Diet

Hemp seeds, often referred to as hemp hearts when shelled, are increasingly recognized for their nutritional benefits and can be a valuable addition to a balanced diet. To understand how to incorporate them effectively, let’s explore their nutritional profile and the recommended serving sizes.

Nutritional Profile of Hemp Seeds:

  • Protein: Hemp seeds are a plant-based source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Healthy Fats: They provide a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a ratio considered optimal for human health.
  • Fiber: The shells contribute to dietary fiber intake, which is key for digestive health, though shelled hemp seeds contain less fiber.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: These seeds are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, among other nutrients.

Recommended Serving Size:

The typical serving size for hemp seeds is about three tablespoons, translating to roughly 30 grams. This serving size ensures that one can reap the nutritional benefits without excessive calorie intake, keeping in line with a balanced diet philosophy.

How to Include Hemp Seeds in Your Diet:

  1. As a Topping: Sprinkle hemp seeds onto salads, yogurts, oatmeal, or smoothie bowls for added texture and nutrients.
  2. In Baking: Incorporate them into bread, muffins, or homemade granola bars.
  3. Blended in Smoothies: Add a scoop to your smoothies for a protein boost.
  4. Homemade Hemp Milk: Blend with water to create a nutritious plant-based milk alternative.
  5. As a Protein Supplement: Use hemp seed protein powder in shakes or as an extra ingredient in energy bites.

Given their rich nutritional content, incorporating hemp seeds into your diet can supplement your intake of essential fatty acids, plant-based proteins, and other vital nutrients. However, as with any food, moderation is key. Including hemp seeds as part of a diverse diet can help ensure you receive a wide range of nutrients necessary for optimal health. Always consider any dietary restrictions or potential allergies and consult with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure about introducing hemp seeds into your diet, especially if you have specific health conditions.

Interactions with Medications:

While hemp seeds are generally safe for consumption, it’s important to note that they might interact with certain medications due to their high fat content, which can affect absorption. If you are on any medications, particularly those that warn against consuming high-fat meals, consult with your healthcare provider.

By considering these factors, you can add hemp seeds to your diet safely and enjoy their various health benefits as part of a comprehensive approach to nutritional wellness. The adaptability of hemp seeds to various recipes makes them an excellent choice for those looking to enhance their diet with minimal effort.

Frequently asked questions

Hemp seeds can be a suitable addition to a ketogenic diet due to their high fat and moderate protein content, with relatively low net carbohydrates. The majority of the fat in hemp seeds is composed of healthy unsaturated fatty acids, which align with the fat requirements of a ketogenic diet. As with all foods, they should be incorporated in moderation, keeping in mind the specific macronutrient targets of the individual's dietary plan.

Hemp seeds may contribute to improved skin health due to their rich content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to nourish and protect the skin. Their anti-inflammatory properties, largely attributed to the gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) present, can help with conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and overall skin dryness. Including hemp seeds in your diet as part of a balanced intake of healthy fats may offer these dermatological benefits.

Hemp seeds should be stored in a cool, dry place, such as the refrigerator or freezer, to preserve their delicate unsaturated fats from oxidation. Sealing them in an airtight container will also protect them from moisture and other contaminants. Proper storage helps maintain the freshness and nutritional quality of the hemp seeds for a longer period.

While hemp seeds typically contain negligible amounts of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, there is a small risk of cross-contamination during processing which could lead to trace amounts being present in the product. However, these amounts are usually well below the threshold that would result in a positive drug test. It’s important to purchase hemp seeds from reputable sources that conduct thorough testing to ensure their THC levels are minimal.

Ask a question about Hemp Seeds and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • skin rashes
  • itching
  • swelling of lips, tongue, or throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • gastrointestinal distress
  • anaphylaxis (rare)

Possible long-term side effects

  • neurotoxic effects
  • kidney damage
  • reproductive system disruption
  • immune system impairment
  • cardiovascular system issues

Ingredients to be aware of

  • gamma-linolenic acid (gla)
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • potential thc
  • heavy metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic)
  • allergenic proteins


  • improved cardiovascular health
  • complete protein source
  • reduced inflammation
  • digestive health
  • lowered cholesterol levels

Healthier alternatives

  • flaxseeds
  • chia seeds
  • walnuts
  • certified organic hemp seeds
  • usda organic or non-gmo project verified products

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Hemp Seeds

  • 10g Plant Protein
  • Rich in Omega 3 & 6
  • Ideal for Keto & Paleo
  • Non-GMO & Vegan
  • Gluten-Free
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-28-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-28-2023

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