Because of its association with the cannabis plant, hemp and hemp-derived foods give many women pause, especially during pregnancy. While hemp is derived from the same plant that produces THC, it is not the same high-inducing product and is actually a nutritionally-packed ingredient in a wide array of different foods.
Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, are safe to eat if you’re pregnant. Hemp hearts are naturally free of THC and CBD. They are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and micronutrients, making hemp seeds a safe and nutritious addition to your pregnancy diet.
It’s natural to be very cautious about the foods you eat while pregnant, so I’ll break down the science behind hemp seeds and explain how this hemp product is kept THC-free.
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Can Pregnant Women Eat Hemp Seeds? Is It Safe?
Many women who are aware of the cautions against using CBD and other marijuana products while expecting are also wary of hemp, as the seeds (also sometimes referred to as hemp hearts) are from the same plant family.
While it’s true that hemp seeds come from the hemp plant, which is in the same plant family as cannabis, the psychoactive THC and CBD oils are made from the flowers, leaves, and stem of the plant- not the seeds. The seeds of the hemp plant don’t naturally contain these chemicals (source: FDA).
An evaluation of hemp seeds found that the minuscule amounts of THC and CBD found on hemp seeds was due to physical contact between the seeds and other (THC-containing) parts of the plant (source: FDA). Based on this, the FDA reports that hemp seeds are safe to eat and do not pose any serious risk to mom or baby (source: FDA).
Hemp Nutrition and Benefits for Pregnancy
Much like other seeds, hemp hearts are a good source of vegetarian protein. They are also one of the rare plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary during pregnancy to support baby’s neurologic development (source: Today’s Dietitian, Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology).
With 4 grams of iron, a 3 tablespoon serving of hemp seeds meet 8% of the iron needed for increased blood circulation between mom and placenta during pregnancy (source: Cleveland Clinic). Short on iron? Besides hemp seeds, you can take a look at our top iron foods for pregnancy list for more inspiration.
The same 3 tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains 66% of your daily need for phosphorus, as well as 55% of your daily need for magnesium (source: NIH– phosphorus, NIH– magnesium)! The high amount of magnesium in hemp may be helpful for women who are at risk of pre-eclampsia.
Studies have found that many women can be deficient in this nutrient during pregnancy and that additional dietary magnesium can reduce the chance of a preterm birth, high blood pressure, and pre-eclampsia (source: Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research). We also put together a list of magnesium-rich foods for pregnancy here.
Even if you’re getting adequate vitamins and minerals through your diet and prenatal supplement, hemp seeds can still be beneficial. Their balanced protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber intake combine to promote fullness and satiety with meals and snacks.
Is Hemp Protein Powder Safe In Pregnancy?
Since hemp seeds contain a good amount of protein, it makes sense that there are also hemp-based protein powders. But how do hemp protein powders compare to traditional whey protein, or the more commonly vegan option of pea protein?
Hemp protein powders are available as either 100% of the protein from hemp or as a hemp blend. Because hemp is also a good source of fiber, hemp protein powders tend to have more naturally occurring fiber compared to traditional whey-based proteins.
Hemp and pea are both complete proteins, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids required by the body. Compared to pea protein, hemp is lower in some of these amino acids (source: Nuzest).
Because of hemp’s lower concentration of some of these necessary amino acids, it is best used as a way to supplement your usual intake through foods and not as your only protein source.
Note: For a complete guide to protein powders, including safety and nutritional benefit information, head over to our protein powder in pregnancy article.
Hemp protein powders are safe to use during pregnancy. Remember, hemp doesn’t contain THC or CBD, the cannabinoids to avoid while expecting. There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind in order to ensure the product you are buying is as safe as possible.
First, choose hemp protein powder produced by a reputable brand. Some brands include a “nutrition facts” panel, whereas others may feature a “supplement facts” panel on the back of the package.
Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA to the same standards that foods are, selecting a protein with a “nutrition facts” panel means that the product has undergone the testing required to be marketed as a food.
Second, opt for a protein that is third-party certified, when possible. The packaging or manufacturer website should display the logo of whichever company has tested the product for quality and purity. A few reputable third-party testing companies include: USP, NSF, and UL.
Can Pregnant Women Drink Hemp Milk?
Hemp milk is another take on non-dairy milk alternatives. Like other alternative milks, hemp milk is made by simply blending the seeds (in this case, hemp seeds) with water and a little salt until the liquid is lump-free and smooth.
Since hemp milk is made directly from the hemp seeds, this means the finished product is just as safe and will also be CBD and THC free- just like hemp seeds.
Many women are curious how the wide array of non-dairy milks stack up against one another. To best compare them, I checked nutrition information for oat, soy, almond, and hemp milks across a single, national brand.
Drinking milk during pregnancy is often recommended for the calcium content, as this helps baby’s bones grow. Hemp milk, like the other non-dairy alternatives, is typically fortified with calcium. 1 cup of hemp milk contains over 25% of your daily calcium needs, more than the other milks offered by the same brand (source: Cleveland Clinic).
Calcium absorption does rely on the body having enough vitamin D, however. Hemp milk is not a good source of vitamin D, so make sure you’re also including high vitamin D foods in your diet if you choose to drink hemp milk.
While hemp milk contains more protein than almond or oat milks, it still only has 3 grams of protein per cup. If you’re drinking milk to help meet your protein needs, soy milk or cow’s milk are better options.
Of course, it doesn’t matter which milk has the most nutrients if you find the taste off-putting! Each of the non-dairy milks on the market have their own unique taste and texture.
Some milks, like oat and soy milk, are thicker and creamier, while hemp milk has been described as “mildly nutty.” The best milk for you is probably the one you’re actually going to drink.
Is Hemp Good for Fertility?
Following in the footsteps of other foods labeled as ‘superfoods’, hemp is often searched in relation to fertility.
Unfortunately, no studies have looked into a direct correlation between hemp seeds and fertility. The thought that hemp can improve fertility is most likely rooted in hemp’s nutrients.
As I mentioned earlier, hemp seeds are a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Not only are fats the basis of hormones, but there is scientific evidence that omega-3 fatty acids in particular can boost female fertility in certain scenarios (source: Colorado Women’s Health).
If your medical provider has encouraged you to up your intake of omega-3s in hopes of conceiving, hemp seeds can help you meet these recommendations.
Hemp’s association with cannabis is a major concern for many expecting mothers who want to avoid exposure to THC or CBD. Hemps seeds themselves do not contain THC or CBD, making them safe to eat during pregnancy.
Overall, hemp seeds are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and even omega-3 fatty acids- all of which are essential to support a healthy pregnancy, so you can enjoy them safely.