Hemp seed oil and flaxseed oil can both be healthy fat choices due to their low saturated fat content. Neither of them is a good choice for an all-purpose cooking oil, however, due to their relatively low smoke points. Evidence is still limited on whether they have any additional heart-health benefits over other oils that are low in saturated fat.
Flaxseed oil contains 18 percent monounsaturated fats, 75 percent polyunsaturated fats and 7 percent saturated fat. Hemp seed oil is similar in composition, with the same percent of polyunsaturated fat but a higher saturated fat content, with 10 percent, and a lower monounsaturated fat content, with 15 percent. The lower saturated fat and higher monounsaturated fat content of flaxseed oil makes it a slightly more nutritious choice.
Both flaxseed and hemp seed oils contain essential omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid as part of their polyunsaturated fat content. Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of these fats, with 7.2 grams per tablespoon. Although hemp seed oil is a bit lower in omega-3 fats, it is still a good source. If you get at least the recommended 1.3 to 2.7 grams of ALA for every 2,000 calories you eat, it may help lower your risk for heart disease.
Hemp seed and flaxseed oils have different effects on your cholesterol, according to a study published in the "European Journal of Nutrition" in December 2006. Flaxseed oil increased ALA more than hempseed oil during the study, but hempseed oil resulted in a lower ratio of total cholesterol to beneficial high density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol. Another study, published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in February 2008, found that taking 2 grams per day of either of these oils for three months isn't likely to improve your heart health, even though flaxseed oil did temporarily increase ALA levels.
Use and Smoke Point
Hemp seed oil has a medium smoke point, which means you can use it for low-heat baking and sauteing and for sauces. Flaxseed oil shouldn't be heated at all, so it is best used for dips, marinades and dressings. Light olive oil, sunflower oil and almond oil have high smoke points, so these are better alternatives for high-heat cooking.
- Eating Well: Cooking Oils Guide
- Cleveland Clinic: Heart-Healthy Cooking: Oils 101
- European Journal of Nutrition: Effects of Hempseed and Flaxseed Oils on the Profile of Serum Lipids, Serum Total and Lipoprotein Lipid Concentrations and Haemostatic Factors
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: A Comparison of Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil and Hempseed Oil Supplementation on Selected Parameters of Cardiovascular Health in Healthy Volunteers
- Colorado State University Extension: Omega-3 Fatty Acids