Nothing reminds you of fall better than the delicious aroma of roasted pumpkin seeds. Also known as pepitas, these seeds make excellent, highly nutritious snacks. These tiny seeds are nutritional powerhouses that contain protein, magnesium, manganese, copper, protein, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds provide a variety of health benefits like improved heart health, blood pressure regulation, diabetes control, and better sleep.
What are pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are the edible green colored seeds of the pumpkins. These seeds can be removed from the flesh and rinsed and roasted to create a healthy snack. They are flat, oval-shaped, and green in color.
Nutritional value of pumpkin seeds
One ounce (28 grams) of pumpkin seed kernels contains (1) –
- Calories – 151
- Carbs – 5 grams
- Fiber – 1.7 grams
- Protein – 7 grams
- Fat – 13 grams
- Phosphorus – 33% of RDI
- Manganese – 42% of RDI
- Magnesium – 37% of RDI
- Iron – 23% of RDI
- Copper – 19% of RDI
- Zinc – 14% of RDI
- Vitamin K – 18% of RDI
They also contain antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids, potassium, vitamin B2, and folate.
Health benefits of pumpkin seeds
1. Can protect against cancer
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants. The antioxidants scavenge free radicals, which can damage cells. Studies have shown that these seeds can reduce the risk of breast, colon, stomach, lungs, and prostate cancer as well (2). According to a study from Germany, increased consumption of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and soybeans can lower the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women (3).
Another study from Cancer Research Laboratory, Indiana University Health, showed that a supplement containing pumpkin seed extract could help slow down the growth of prostate cancer cells (4).
2. Improves bone health
Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, which plays an essential role in bone formation. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 37% of our daily requirement of magnesium. According to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, low levels of magnesium are linked to increased risk of fractures (5).
Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, which prevent oxidative damage- the leading cause of osteoarthritis. Pumpkin seeds also contain omega-3fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and improve bone strength.
3. Protects against type 2 diabetes
Pumpkin seeds also help in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Several studies have shown that pumpkin seeds can lower blood sugar levels (6). These seeds are also rich in magnesium, which helps in diabetes management. According to a study from the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Medical Health, there is an inverse relationship between magnesium intake and diabetes risk (7).
4. Boost immunity
Pumpkin seeds are packed with vitamin E, zinc, and healthy fats, all of which help to boost immunity. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 14% of our daily requirement for zinc. Zinc is essential for the development and function of cells. A deficiency in zinc can weaken your immune system.
Vitamin E serves as an antioxidant as it maintains healthy blood vessels and boosts the immune system. Pumpkin seeds also contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are the main component of the immune system cell membranes.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E. These antioxidants reduce inflammation and protect the cells from harmful free radicals. According to a study from Cairo University, Egypt, when pumpkin seed oil was given to rats with arthritis, it reduced inflammation in the rats without any side effects (8).
6. Improves digestion
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of dietary fiber. One ounce of shelled pumpkin seeds contains 1.7 grams of fiber. Fiber helps to soften the stool and prevent constipation. Parasites like tapeworm can harm the body by stealing nutrients and reducing the ability to maintain healthy digestion. According to a 2012 study from China, eating pumpkin seeds helped expel tapeworms and eliminate any signs of infection in the volunteers (9).
The magnesium content in pumpkin seeds also plays a vital role in healthy digestion. Magnesium improves the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and thus eliminates toxins and impurities.
7. Improve prostate health
Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrition and help to improve prostate health. During one study, patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia were given 300 mg of pumpkin seed oil for 12 weeks. The results showed an improvement in the symptoms and suggested pumpkin seed oil as a safe and effective treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (10).
According to one theory, dihydrotestosterone, a potent metabolite of testosterone, builds up in the prostate and causes its growth. Pumpkin seeds contain phytochemicals that help to reduce the effects of dihydrotestosterone on the prostate.
Zinc is also essential for healthy prostate function in the body. According to a 2011 study, BHP or prostate carcinoma may be associated with a reduction in the levels of tissue zinc, plasma zinc, and an increase in urine zinc (11). Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and can help in keeping your zinc levels optimal.
8. Improves bladder function
Pumpkin seeds are effective in treating an overactive bladder, a condition that causes a sudden urge to urinate and can sometimes lead to mild urinary incontinence. An overactive bladder can also lead to disturbed sleep. According to a study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, when 45 people with urinary dysfunction were given 10 grams of pumpkin seed oil for 12 weeks, they showed an improvement in their symptoms (12).
Pumpkin seeds also provide significant relief for older men dealing with urinary problems caused by BHP or an enlarged prostate.
9. Improves male fertility
Low levels of zinc are linked to reduced sperm quality and infertility. Zinc helps to improve sex drive and is also necessary for the production of healthy sperm. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, so they help in improving sperm quality. According to an animal-based study, pumpkin seeds can also protect sperm from damage caused by chemotherapy or autoimmune diseases (13).
10. Boosts heart health
Pumpkin seeds contain fiber, antioxidants, and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which help to keep the heart-healthy. Studies have shown that pumpkin seeds can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, the two major risk factors for heart disease (14).
Omega 3 fats are known to lower the risk of thrombosis and arrhythmias, which lead to heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death. They also lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Pumpkin seeds can increase nitric oxide generation in the body. Nitric oxide improves blood flow by expanding the blood vessels and lowering the risk of plaque growth in the arteries (15).
11. Treats insomnia
Pumpkin seeds are a naturally rich source of the amino acid tryptophan. Our body converts tryptophan into serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and melatonin (the sleep hormone). According to a 2005 study from Canada, taking tryptophan from a deioled gourd seed in combination with carbohydrate is comparable to pharmaceutical grade tryptophan for the treatment of insomnia (16).
Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of magnesium. Optimal magnesium levels, not high or low, are essential for healthy sleep regulation (17).
12. Good for a healthy pregnancy
Pumpkin seeds contain several nutrients that are important for prenatal development. Pumpkin seeds are rich in iron, which is essential for a healthy pregnancy. During pregnancy, our body needs a higher number of red blood cells for the baby’s growth, which is why the iron intake is vital during pregnancy.
Pumpkins are also a good source of zinc. Doctors suggest higher zinc intake during pregnancy as it is essential for healthy immune function and preventing uterine infections. Pumpkin seeds contain folate, which helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. These seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids that boost the baby’s brain development.
13. Protects skin and eyes
Pumpkin seeds contain squalene, an antioxidant compound structurally similar to beta-carotene. Squalene is distributed throughout the body tissues, and it plays an essential role in protecting the skin during UV and other types of radiation exposure (18). Squalene also plays a vital role in retinal health. It may also protect from cancer (19).
Side effects of pumpkin seeds
You can eat pumpkin seeds in moderation without experiencing any side effects. However, eating too many pumpkin seeds can lead to intestinal gas and diarrhea. Thought the unsaturated fats in pumpkin seeds are good for heart health, they also make the seeds prone to spoilage. Eating spoilt pumpkin seeds exposes you to free radicals, which can increase your risk of chronic illnesses.
Ways to eat pumpkin seeds
You can eat pumpkin seeds alone as a snack or add them to dishes for extra crunch.
- You can sprinkle pumpkin seeds on salads.
- Make granola bars at home with pumpkin seeds, nuts, and dried fruit.
- Add some cumin and garlic powder to pumpkin seeds and sprinkle some olive oil on them. Bake them till they are brown and roasted.
- Blend pumpkin seeds in a blender till they form a smooth paste. Use it like peanut butter.
Pumpkin seeds are highly beneficial for health. They contain protein, magnesium, manganese, copper, protein, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds provide a variety of health benefits like a lower risk for cancer, improved heart health, better immunity, better prostate health, and healthy digestion. However, make sure you eat these seeds in moderation as overconsumption can lead to indigestion and gas.