5 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

should pumpkin seeds be part of your snacks

We all know raw nuts and seeds are good for our health when eaten in moderation—a handful every day is a good portion guide. For an alternative to your go-to nut, try roasting your pumpkin seeds this season. Snack on them raw, or add a scoop to soups, salads, cereals, or casseroles. Then watch (and feel!) as your body basks in the benefits.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds:

Once thought of as high calorie treats to be avoided, nuts and seeds are emerging as an important component of a healthy dietary pattern.  They are a rich source of plant protein, have plenty of dietary fiber, and are high in heart-healthy nutrients. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seeds can help lower your LDL, or bad cholesterol, (1) and prevent muscle weakness. Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber, calories and fat — just one cup has 285 calories, 12 grams of fiber and 12 grams of fat.

Pumpkin seeds help people with diabetes maintain blood sugar control to manage the disease. (2)  Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to improving insulin regulation, which helps those with diabetes. They are high in magnesium, which most people don’t get enough of in their diet. Magnesium content helps regulate blood sugar levels, lowering your diabetes risk. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of fiber. Diets high in fiber are associated with lower risks of diabetes, and better controlled blood sugar levels.

Most Americans are only eating about half of what is the daily recommended amount of fiber intake. More fiber can contribute to better colon health and a stronger immune system. Just an ounce of pumpkin seeds will give you 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for fiber. Add a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds over a salad to obtain these benefits.

Pumpkins are a type of squash, which range from winter squash to summer squash. Most edible squashes have their own unique properties. However, in general, they all have high fiber content and contain various minerals and vitamins.

Pumpkin Seeds Packed with Nutrition

Magnesium

Supports healthy blood pressure (3), the creation of the energy molecule ATP, bone and tooth formation, proper heart pumping, and numerous other functions. About 80 percent of Americans are magnesium deficient, but just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half the recommended daily amount of this important mineral. Every 100 grams of pumpkin seeds contains up to 262 mg of Magnesium. This amount is enough to cover 65% of your daily Magnesium requirement!

Zinc

Helps the body fight diseases and heal wounds, regulates mood and sleep, contributes to senses of taste and smell, and supports eye and skin health, among other benefits. Many foods rich in zinc also contain saturated fat, but pepitas offer a healthier way to access the antioxidant. Another benefit of zinc is the immunity support it offers.

Healthy fats, antioxidants, protein, and fiber

Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants including phenols and flavonoids. (4) Pepitas (which are harvested from specific hulless pumpkin varieties, known as Styrian or Oil Seed pumpkins) are truly an all-in-one snack when it comes to nutrition. When mixed with flax seeds, in particular, pepitas provide excellent heart and liver benefits—so if you’re into DIY trail mix, be sure to include both seeds in your recipe.

Tryptophan

Commonly found in carb-heavy holiday meals (Thanksgiving dinner, you know what I’m talking about), this amino acid helps promote sleep by creating serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood, empathetic perception, appetite, and sleep. Pumpkin seeds have a relatively high amount of tryptophan, so a handful before bed may contribute to more peaceful rest.

Phytoestrogens

Studies suggest the natural phytoestrogens found in pumpkin seed oil may help reduce the risk for breast cancer, as well as lead to decreases in hot flashes, headaches, joint pain, and other menopausal symptoms. Hot flashes can include a feeling of intense heat, sweating, flushed cheeks, increased heart rate, and even tingling. These symptoms are often the bane of menopausal people everywhere. Pumpkin seeds may provide some relief. (5) Roasting the seeds at low temperatures helps better preserve this oil.

Vitamin A

Supports eye, lung, and skin health. Pumpkins get their color from beta-carotene—a plant pigment also found in rosy foods such as tomatoes and carrots—which most people are able to convert to vitamin A.

B-complex vitamins

These include vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate), and more—they help with everything from joint pain to brain function to reproductive health. These vitamins all work together to promote a healthy body.

Phosphorus

Important for growth and cellular reproduction, this mineral helps break down nutrients (thus releasing energy) stored inside the food we eat. It’s also important for strong bones and teeth, and—bonus!—phosphorus helps the body better absorb B vitamins.

Potassium

Helps keep cells, tissues, and organs functioning properly. Most notably, this electrolyte supports normal blood pressure and kidney, bone, and heart health. Eating more potassium is also one way to counterbalance sodium—potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium.

GOT GUTS?

Don’t chuck ‘em just yet—pumpkin guts might look intimidating, but that slimy orange goop is actually full of important vitamins and minerals. Use it in pie, bread, or other baked goods. Make pumpkin butter. Blend it into a smoothie. However you choose to do it, there are plenty of ways to add the fruit to your seasonal dishes—and plenty of reasons why you should.

Favorite Way to Enjoy Pumpkin Seeds

So, you’ve seeded and gutted your pumpkin—now what? You can easily add pumpkin to most dishes, but a quick and tasty way to enjoy the seeds is to roast them. Following is a easy recipe:

Step one:

Inside the pumpkin are the seeds are intertwined with fibrous stands of pumpkin pulp. Use the flat edge of a sturdy spoon or spatula to scrape the pulp away from the pumpkin. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds leaving behind as much of the pulp as possible. This will make the next step easier!

Step two:

Put the seeds (and any of the pulp still sticking to them) into a large colander. Put the colander in an empty sink under running water. While rinsing the seeds, separate the pulp from the seeds and discard it.

Step three:

Soak Pumpkin Seeds Before Roasting- Soaking the pumpkin seeds in salt water also helps to get some of the salt inside the shell, is supposed to make the pumpkin seeds easier to digest and helps the outer shell get crispier when roasted.

Pour the seeds into a large pot. Add water and salt. Soak in salt water overnight. Drain well before roasting.

Step four (day two):

Drain pumpkinseeds that soaked overnight. After draining place on paper towel and pat off excess water.

Step five:

Put the drained pumpkin seeds into a bowl. Stir in olive oil and seasoning. And seasonings are completely your choice- we added a few ideas below. But think of your favorite flavors and give them a shot.

Season with your favorite spices, ay go to is salt, garlic powder, and cayenne. You could also do sweet and savory by adding some cinnamon, or up the spice by adding chili powder or cumin. Adding a bit of worcestershire sauce adds some flavor. Toss until seeds are evenly coated.

Step six:

Bake the pumpkin seeds at 375° for 25-30 minutes, stirring and turning the seeds every 5 minutes, until golden and crunchy. Store the roasted pumpkin seeds in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars

Now that you mastered roasting pumpkin seeds, you can make your own snack bars. Pumpkin granola bars are easy to make and they taste amazing! Loaded with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds, they are a super delicious fall treat! You can also add other items to these bars like chocolate chips or other nuts- be creative.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup shelled roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter or cookie butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 35Line a 9 x 9 baking dish with parchment or spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin pie spice, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, brown sugar, and salt.
  3. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and pat into an even layer. Bake 18-20 minutes, then let cool before cutting into bars.

Once the pumpkin granola bars have cook, allow them to cool completely. Once cooled, cut them into bars and serve.

Wrap-up

Feeling inspired to make pepitas your new favorite treat? When choosing your pumpkins this season, don’t be too picky—after all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

(1) Effect of pumpkin seed oil on cholesterol fractions and systolic/diastolic blood pressure 
(2) Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds For Type 2 Diabetes
(3) FDA Announces Qualified Health Claim for Magnesium and Reduced Risk of High Blood Pressure 
(4) The Worlds Healthiest Foods
(5) Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review

by Cara Lucas

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