February is American Heart Month, when our nation shines a spotlight on heart disease, the number one killer of Americans. Our attention has understandably been elsewhere lately, but heart disease still kills more than 650,000 Americans each year, far more than any of the other leading causes of death for 2020, including cancer, stroke, or Covid-19.
Heart disease is something we all need to have on our radar, regardless of our age. According to a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, heart disease caused roughly 18.5 million deaths globally in 2019, and more than 6 million of those deaths occurred in people between 30 and 70 years of age.
So… what exactly is heart disease? According to the Mayo Clinic, it comprises a range of heart-related conditions, including:
- Blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- Heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects)
- Heart valve disease
- Disease of the heart muscle
- Heart infection
The good news? A healthy diet and lifestyle practices can make a big difference when it comes to heart disease.
In some ancient traditions, it’s said that foods resembling body parts are beneficial for the health of that body part. Think of walnuts, which look like the two halves of a brain when opened, and provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that studies have shown support brain health and cognitive function. Or celery, which provides silicon that keeps your bones strong and healthy. Or red wine, which has a compound called resveratrol that can help support the health of blood vessels.
That brings us to hemp hearts — the heart of the hemp seed, with the crunchy outer hull removed. Is it any surprise that hemp hearts help support your ticker? It’s right there in the name!
Here’s a brief rundown of all the ways hemp hearts show a little love to your heart:
A three tablespoon serving of hemp hearts offers 197mg of magnesium, or more than a third of the recommended daily allowance for adults. Magnesium is one of seven essential macronutrients, and one in which many Americans are deficient or insufficient in. It’s super important for heart health, so making sure you’re getting enough of this nutrient is critical. A daily sprinkle of hemp hearts on your salad or in your morning smoothie can get you more than a third of the way there! (And other magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, and cashews can help get you over the finish line.)
Hemp hearts also have linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat found in many nuts and seeds. Maryam Farvid, a research scientist at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that randomized clinical trials have shown linoleic acid to be supportive of multiple aspects of physical wellbeing.
Linoleic acid is what’s known as an omega-6 fatty acid. It’s one of two essential fatty acids (along with alpha-linoleic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid) that are critical for human health. But we don’t make these acids in our own bodies, so we have to get them from our diet.
The ratio between these two fatty acids also matters. An ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids can range from 1:1 to 4:1. But a typical Western diet offers a much different ratio, of more than 15:1! Yikes. This means that most of us get way too many omega-6s without enough omega-3s in the mix, which can lead to all sorts of issues we’d do well to avoid.
But true to its superfood form, hemp has us covered. Its ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids falls right in the sweet spot, at a perfectly balanced 3:1. Keeping your intake of omega-6s balanced with omega-3s is a super savvy move, and hemp hearts and hemp seed oil offer an easy and delicious way to make it happen.
But don’t just take our word for it. Even the American Heart Association recommends supporting the health of your heart by adding foods to your diet that contain omega-3s, such as oily fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp hearts.