Food Highlight: Hemp Seeds


If you are looking for a plant based food that is also high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids that also tastes good, look no further than hemp. Hemp seeds are small and mildly nutty, making them good for a quick, easy snack or a great addition to a meal.

While some people may be wary to try hemp seeds because of their notorious relative, marijuana, rest assured hemp seeds come from a different plant within the Cannabis sativa species. As such, they contain about 0.001% THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and will not get you high or make you fail a drug test. But, they will provide an abundance of healthy nutrients if you’re willing to give them a try.

After the hard outer shell of the hemp seed is removed, you are left with a light colored inner kernel of the hemp seed, sometimes affectionately called a ‘hemp heart.’ Two tablespoons of hemp seeds or hearts contain 111 calories, 6.3 g protein, 9.8 g fat, and 1.7 g carbohydrates including 0.8 g fiber. In addition to being high in protein and low in carbohydrates, hemp seeds provide an impressive amount of magnesium, zinc, iron, folic acid, and potassium. But perhaps the most impressive nutritional feature of hemp seeds is their amount of omega 3 fatty acids in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). While ALA is poorly converted to the coveted DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids, it is still a good choice for a healthy fat, especially for someone who does not regularly consume fish. As if all of that wasn’t enough, hemp seeds also contain all 10 essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), making it a great choice for a plant based protein. Getting enough protein is important for surgical weight loss patients, and hemp can be a nice addition to a post bariatric surgery diet.

The nutty flavor of the hemp seed has been compared to a mix of sunflower seeds and pine nuts. The nutty flavor combines well with yogurt, in smoothies, in green salads, sprinkled on sliced bananas, added to cereal or oatmeal, or tossed in a trail mix. Hemp seeds can be a nice addition to homemade bread or muffins. Many people have gotten creative with hemp seeds and used them to coat chicken instead of using breadcrumbs, or in place of couscous in tabouli. Hemp seeds can be found at well stocked grocery stores, but also at big box stores like Costco. In addition to hemp seeds, hemp oil can be found at specialty grocers as well as hemp milk and hemp milk based cheeses.

This food highlight is offered by Dr. Shillingford, M.D., P.A., a Boca Raton based general surgeon specializing in laparoscopic and bariatric surgery. Dr. Shillingford’s gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and lap band patients come from all over South Florida, including Delray Beach, Parkland, Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Wellington, as as far away as Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and New York. Dr. Shillingford’s weight loss surgery patients are often searching for foods that are low in calories, high in protein, and packed with healthy nutrients, and hemp just might fit the bill!

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