Did you know that cannabis has the ability to clothe, house, heal and even feed us?
Full of necessary nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, there’s a reason we’ve been advised to consume four to five servings of plants per day. According to a 2021 article by Harvard Health Publishing, five servings of combined fruit and vegetables per day offers the most health benefits.
The nutritional benefits of cannabis are more comprehensive than any other plant, which classifies it as a key superfood! Lucky for us, cannabis is a plant, and it is edible.
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I teach clients to “eat a rainbow.” Plants with darker hues and brighter colors tend to be richer in antioxidants and phytonutrients. And as a Holistic Cannabis Practitioner, I classify cannabis as one of the coveted green leafy vegetables, which are particularly full of health benefits.
What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Cannabis? Which Parts of the Plant Are Most Beneficial?
There are many components to the cannabis plant, including hemp seeds, leaves, stalks and more. A greater amount of research has been done on hemp seeds than on other parts of the plant. However, as cannabis becomes more mainstream in a legal sense, nutritional studies of the plant will become more comprehensive.
Research shows that cannabis as a food and textile dates back to over 10,000 years. And when it comes to research on the nutritional benefits of cannabis in its raw form, look no further than Dr. William Courtney. He and Kristen Courtney founded Cannabis International.
Dr. Courtney is the leading expert and a massive advocate for the health benefits of raw cannabis. According to Courtney, raw cannabis has been used in the diet of humans for thousands of years. It provides more nutritional benefits raw than if it were smoked, dried or cured.
Let’s break down the nutritional benefits of each component of the cannabis plant.
1. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are exactly what they sound like, which are the seeds from the hemp plant. As a quick refresher, hemp and cannabis are a part of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L. The only difference is their THC content.
Want more details? I go into it here: Confused About Cannabis? We Break Down Marijuana, Hemp, THC and CBD
Hemp seeds can be found on the shelf at every natural grocery store like Whole Foods, and they are also appearing at other more conventional grocery stores.
The nutritional benefits of cannabis hemp seeds include:
- A complete protein source (by containing the nine essential amino acids)
- Containing the ever-important Omega-3 fatty acids, found more commonly in walnuts and seafood, which are linked to brain health
- Easily digestible
- Free from dairy and gluten
- Easily addable to items like smoothies, salads and yogurt
But there’s more to a plant than the seeds . . .
The nutritional benefits of cannabis leaves include:
- Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Contains vitamin K, which is needed for blood clotting
- Contains vitamin C, which supports immune function, especially in the lingering days of the COVID pandemic
- Good source of folate, iron and calcium
The hearty stalks of cannabis are rich in fiber. This nutrient is needed for the ever-important daily bowel movement. Fiber also plays a role in hunger and fullness cues, along with how food is digested and turned into blood sugar.
4. Cannabinoids and Terpenes
CBD and THC are two of over 100 compounds found in cannabis called cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids. This dynamic duo, along with other cannabinoids, have a multitude of healing properties, including:
- Pain relief
- Reducing inflammation
- Improving spasms
- And much more
Research on cannabinoids is just getting started. And Dr. Courtney believes we better absorb cannabinoids by consuming raw cannabis rather than ingesting it via smoking.
Cannabis also contains volatile compounds called terpenes or terpenoids. These compounds are also found in plants like citrus foods and thyme.
Terpenes are a significant component of essential oils, providing plants with aroma and flavor. These compounds also have many reported health benefits.
The terpene cur-cumin, found in turmeric, has many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, diuretic and anti-cancer properties.
Consuming cannabis through one’s diet rather than smoking keeps the terpene profile intact. This means the positive health effects are more available as the terpenes are less disrupted.
Per the research, demonstrated effects of terpenes include:
- And more
Enjoy the Nutritional Benefits of Cannabis By Eating It
Just like other plants, cannabis can be eaten in many forms. Below are some simple and common ways you can add it to your meals.
Here are a few ways to try it:
- Sauté or cook like other greens
- Add to smoothies
- Chop into salads
- Sprinkle into spaghetti sauce or stews
- Eat it raw
A word of caution: If you want to skip the psychoactive effects, aka feeling high, don’t heat it before you eat it. Raw cannabis contains THCA, which is non-psychoactive. By heating cannabis, the THCA converts to THC, thus activating the mind-altering effects.
The Nutritional Benefits of Cannabis In Summary
To summarize, there are numerous nutritional benefits of cannabis that came from many different parts of the plant, including the hemp seeds, leaves, and stalk.
The multifaceted cannabis plant:
- Is a complete protein
- And a good source of Omega-3s
- Contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals
- Is an excellent source of fiber
- Contains both cannabinoids and terpenes, which have incredible healing properties
- Can be consumed in a variety of ways
Imagine the thrill of purchasing freshly juiced cannabis at your local grocer. Or having the ability to bag up fresh leaves and stalks from the farmer’s market.
The nutritional benefits of cannabis are impossible to ignore, making the reality of legally purchasing and consuming all parts of this plant closer than we realize.
Cannabis is the new wheatgrass. And unlike other nutrition fads, it’s here to stay.
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.