“First of all, hemp protein is considered to be complete, meaning it contains all essential amino acids,” says Sheri Vettel, MPH, RD, LDN, an Integrative Nutrition health coach. “For individuals following a primarily or entirely plant-based diet, this is incredibly important.” In addition, Vettel explains that compared to other sources of protein, hemp is particularly high in one amino acid known as arginine. Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, which supports healthy blood pressure.
Hemp seeds are also rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as nutrients that support overall health, including vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, and zinc. Plus, Vettel points out that they’re a low-allergen risk and are fairly easy to digest.
But here’s a little known fact and one more reason to start snacking on help seeds: Hemp seeds can help ensure you get better sleep.
Why snacking on hemp seeds for sleep is so effective
“Hemp’s nutrient profile is incredibly useful when it comes to supporting quality sleep because the combination of the amino acid tryptophan and vitamin B6 serve as precursors for melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle,” says Kylene Bogden, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, CLT, a wellness advisor for Love Wellness. “When eating hemp seeds, the their vitamin B6 content will trigger the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin, which your body can then convert into melatonin.” Bogden strongly emphasizes that, when possible, it is always better to eat in a way that supports your body’s natural physiological reaction (i.e. hemp seeds!) versus relying on a supplement like melatonin.
Moreover, one ounce of hemp seeds provides approximately 45 percent of the RDI for magnesium. “Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in regulating levels of the calming neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which promotes restorative sleep,” says Vettel. “Unfortunately, magnesium deficiencies are quite common for several reasons. This includes the declining nutritive value of crops, one’s overall dietary composition, and even gut-health issues that can lead to malabsorption of magnesium. This makes it so important to include several quality sources of magnesium in the diet, such as hemp seeds, as we do know that magnesium deficiency is linked to insomnia and overall poor-quality sleep.”
How to best utilize hemp seeds for sleep (and overall health)
It’s important to note that while hemp seeds are fantastic nutritionally, eating them before bed won’t necessarily induce sleepiness right away. “This is because the tryptophan in hemp seeds isn’t consumed in isolation from other amino acids causing competition over which amino acids will make it to the brain,” explains Vettel. “Also, some amino acids, such as tyrosine, may promote alertness. Therefore it’s important to ensure that your diet regularly contains several quality sources of tryptophan, including hemp seeds, and that tryptophan metabolism is supported in the body.”
One way to support tryptophan’s metabolism, according to Vettel, is to support the health of your gut microbiome, as gut microbes play a role in tryptophan metabolism. “Luckily, hemp seeds are also a good source of soluble fiber, a type of fiber which feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.”
A final bonus about hemp seeds: they’re full of antioxidants and according to Bogden more research is coming out suggesting that antioxidants can support our body’s sleep cycle.
While you can easily sprinkle the nutty, earthy seeds on salads or soups, there are also more unique ways to work them into your diet.
Bogden suggests that those that don’t love the flavor start by mixing a few tablespoons into oatmeal or smoothies for a new flavor blend. “You can also use hemp seeds as the crust or part of the crust of your chicken or fish; instead of dipping your fish or chicken in breadcrumbs, dip in a bowl of hemp seeds with your favorite seasoning mixed in.”
Hemp milk is another great option to get a big punch of hemp seeds. “You can easily make your own by blending 1/2 cup shelled hemp seeds, a dash of pure vanilla extract, and four cups of filtered water in a blender. Once blended, strain through cheesecloth, remove the pulp, stir in a small amount of your favorite spices—such as cinnamon, cardamom, or turmeric. Sweeten with a tiny amount of natural sweetener like pure maple syrup, if desired. Retain the hemp seed pulp and add to oatmeal, homemade veggie burgers, or homemade hemp protein balls later on,” says Vettel.
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