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Omega-3 in Hemp Seeds: What You Should Know

Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are famous for being a rich source of protein, but these little nutty seeds also contain tons of other health-boosting nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. Below, we take an in-depth look at the omega-3 content of hemp seeds and analyze how this vegan source of omega-3 fares against other sources of omega-3 such as fish oil, chia seeds and flax seeds in terms of quantity and potential health benefits.

Omega-3 Content of Hemp Seeds

Although hemp seeds do not contain as much omega-3 fatty acids as flax seeds or chia seeds, they are a relatively good source of these essential fatty acids, with one ounce of hulled hemp seeds providing 2.5 grams of omega-3. To put this into perspective, one ounce of flax seeds contains 7.4 grams of omega-3, while chia seeds contain 5.1 grams of omega-3 per ounce. What's more, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of hemp seed oil is typically between 2:1 and 3:1, which many experts consider to be optimal for human health. (1, 2) The omega-3 in hemp seeds and hemp seed oil occurs in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is classified as a short-chain fatty acid.

Omega-3 in Hemp Seeds

Omega-3 in Hemp Seeds vs Fish Oil

As you may already know, fish oil is one of the most concentrated sources of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These long-chain omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively researched for their potential health benefits which include protection against cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease, as well as healthy fetal development (3). The human body can convert ALA, the omega-3 found in hemp seeds, into DHA and EPA, but unfortunately, the rate of conversion is typically very low. Therefore, increasing your intake of hemp seeds to boost your DHA and EPA levels is not a very good strategy.

The good news is that although alpha-linolenic acid has not received as much attention as DHA and EPA, is does have some health benefits in its own right. For example, research suggests that foods rich in alpha-linolenic may offer some protection against cardiovascular disease, reduce biomarkers of inflammation, improve asthma control, provide protection against some types of cancer, keep your bones strong and healthy, and provide some benefits for pregnant women and their babies (4).

The Bottom Line

To sum up, hemp seeds contain a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Although ALA has not received as much attention from the scientific community and the media as the fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, it does have a number of properties that make it an invaluable addition to a healthy, balanced diet. To up your intake of ALA, try whipping up a fruity hemp seed smoothie (such as this mango, kiwi and hemp smoothie), or add some ground hemp seeds to your salad or yogurt bowl for a boost of omega-3.

1. (2017). Top 10 Sources of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
2. J. Callaway (2004). Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica, 140(1-2), 65-72.
3. D. Swanson et al (2012). Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition, 3: 1-7.
4. (2017). Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA): Health Benefits


Super Seeds Cookbook Created by Chicago-based author and vegan food blogger Kim Lutz, Super Seeds is packed with recipes featuring five super-nutritious seeds: hemp, chia, flax, quinoa and amaranth. The vegan, gluten-free recipes included in this extraordinary cookbook include both savory and sweet treats, covering everything from salads and soups to breads and desserts. Taco-Seasoned Quinoa Stuffed Avocados, Hemp Seed Hummus, Blackberry Chia Jam, Amaranth Cornbread and Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad are just a few of the mouthwatering recipes you'll find in this cookbook.
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