Can You Eat Cannabis? Exploring the Nutritional Value of Marijuana
Wednesday July 19, 2017
A s the second-most nutrient-dense food (second only to soy), consuming cannabis can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, too. Of course, some methods of consumption allow more nutrients to be absorbed than others, but before we get into that, let’s look at what nutrition is and why it’s so important for a healthy body.
The Importance of Healthy Nutrition
A balanced diet is important for more than a slim waist-line; maintaining balanced nutrition can help people fight off and recover from illness, reduce depression, delay the effects of aging, improve energy levels, and even live longer!
Though the body produces some of its own nutrients, there are some it cannot produce thus requiring that we get it from an outside source (food). The most common of these are:
An important part of proper brain functioning, carbs come primarily from foods like bread, pastas, starchy vegetables, and whole grains
Comprised of nine to 20 amino acids and aiding in the establishment and repair of body tissue, protein can be found in meats, dairy, beans and eggs.
Vitamins help provide structure to blood, bones and ligaments, and can be acquired from many sources including fruits and veggies, supplements or even the sun!
Minerals help maintain appropriate water levels both inside and outside of cells, and maintain proper bone density, as well. Common minerals that must be consumed through diet include calcium, sodium and potassium.
The Nutritional Value of Cannabis
Though the most nutrient-dense part of the cannabis plant is its seeds (packing in high levels of calcium, fiber, fatty acids and 16 grams of protein in every 50 gram serving), the entire plant – leaves, stems, and roots – contain nutrition your body can benefit from. Leaves are an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous and also contain polyphenols which are well known anti-oxidants that help protect the body from aging.
Though the stems contain high levels of fiber (suggesting they may be used as fiber supplement), their tough, woody texture and insoluble nature makes them undesirable to eat. The roots, which have been used topically as medicine for centuries, have yet to be analyzed by nutritionists.
Ways to Reap the Nutritional Benefits of Cannabis
Juicing is by far the best way to reap the nutritional value of cannabis. By juicing, not only does the consumer benefit from the nutrients listed above, they also consume a concentrated dose of powerful cannabinoids, too – without getting high! That’s because the psychoactive cannabinoid THC is not produced until its non-psychoactive precursor, THCa, is decarboxylated. In other words, a shot of fresh cannabis juice can deliver a huge amount of nutrition without ever causing a high.
For those who want the high, of course, another option is to consume cannabis-infused edibles. Though some of the nutritional content will naturally burn away during the cooking process, much of that may be dependent on the method of cooking. For example, foods that are cooked quickly under high heat tend to retain their nutritional value better than those that are cooked low and slow, but the opposite is unfortunately true of their cannabinoid profile; high temps burn off cannabinoids but retain their nutrition better.
The big question on our minds while writing this piece has been whether nutrients can be absorbed via inhalation.
There isn’t really a lot of debate on the matter; most people believe that nutrients must be absorbed through the digestive tract – the mouth, stomach, large and small intestines – since that’s literally what the whole system is designed to do.
Though it’s impossible to say for certain at this point, some trends suggest that inhaling nutrients may be another possible route to the bloodstream. For example, vaping alcohol has become popular because it gets people drunk without the calories. But research suggests that calories do get absorbed into the bloodstream via inhalation (albeit at a lesser extent) suggesting that some other vitamins and minerals may be able to, as well. Vape companies have also been selling caffeine – and vitamin-infused vape products which seem to work along those same lines.
The bottom line? Cannabis is a vegetable and vegetables are good for your health, but the method of consumption plays a big role in how readily available these various nutrients are to the body.
Do you think cannabis should contribute to a daily vegetable intake? What about smoking it? We’d love to know your thoughts.
Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
Have you ever chomped down on a few nugs of cannabis? Learn about the nutrition behind eating cannabis and ways it can improve your lifestyle.
What are the health benefits of hemp?
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Hemp is a plant grown in the northern hemisphere that takes about 3-4 months to mature. Hemp seeds can be consumed or used to produce a variety of food products including hemp milk, hemp oil, hemp cheese substitutes and hemp-based protein powder.
Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. Hemp milk is made from hulled hemp seeds, water, and sweetener. Hemp oil has a strong “grassy” flavor.
Hemp is commonly confused with marijuana. It belongs to the same family, but the two plants are very different. Marijuana is grown to contain high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that is responsible for its psychoactive properties. Hemp describes the edible plant seeds and only contains a trace amount of THC.
This feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of hemp and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more hemp into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming hemp.
Share on Pinterest Hemp is available in a variety of forms, including oils and powders.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 2 tablespoon serving of hemp seeds weighing 20 grams (g) contains:
- 111 calories
- 6.31 g of protein
- 9.75 g of fat
- 1.73 g of carbohydrates (including 0.8 g of fiber and 0.3 g of sugar)
- 14 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 1.59 mg of iron
- 140 mg of magnesium
- 330 mg of phosphorus
- 240 mg of potassium
- 1.98 mg of zinc
- 22 micrograms (mcg) of folate
Hemp seeds also provide vitamin C, some B vitamins, and vitamins A and E.
The nutritional content of hemp is linked to a number of potential health benefits.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming two 3.5-ounce servings of fish, especially oily fish, each week. This is because fish is a major source of omega-3 fatty acids. If a person does not regularly consume fish, they may not be getting enough DHA or EPA.
Hemp is a plant-based source of concentrated omega-3 fatty acids. However, the fatty acids that hemp contains are alpha-linolenic acids (ALA), which are poorly converted to DHA and EPA in the body at a rate of only about 2 to 10 percent.
Despite this inefficient conversion rate, hemp is one of the richest sources of ALA, and so still represents a very good source of healthy fat, particularly for those who do not consume fish or eggs.
Hemp contains a specific omega-6 fatty acid called GLA and hemp oil contains an even higher percentage of GLA.
Hemp seeds also contain phytosterols, which help in reducing the amount of cholesterol in the body by removing fat build-up in the arteries.
Hemp contains all 10 essential amino acids, making it a good plant-based protein source. Hemp does not contain phytates, which are found in many vegetarian protein sources and can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals.
Magnesium plays an important role in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, including the metabolism of food and synthesis of fatty acids and proteins. Magnesium is involved in neuromuscular transmission and activity and muscle relaxation.
Magnesium deficiency — which is especially prevalent in older populations — is linked to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis. Nuts and seeds like hemp are some of the best sources of magnesium.
Research suggests that people experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may be able to alleviate symptoms such as bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain and breast tenderness by ensuring an adequate intake of magnesium. Magnesium combined with vitamin B6 appears to be most efficacious in these instances.
Hemp is a plant whose seeds can be consumed or used to make food products such as milk and oil. It provides protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and it may be useful as part of a weight-loss diet. Risks include digestive problems. Find out more about hemp seeds and how to include them in your diet.