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If you enjoy roasting and salting pumpkin seeds after carving your jack-o-lantern every year, it’s time to take a closer look at the nutritional punch packed into these seeds, which are available year-round as both pumpkin seeds and shelled pepitas.
Nutrient Components of Pumpkin Seeds
Like many other nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and healthy, plant-based fats. Here’s the breakdown for 1 ounce, or about ¼ cup, of raw seeds (1):
- 163 calories
- 14 g fat, including 2 g saturated, 5 g monounsaturated, 6 g polyunsaturated
- 4 g carbs and 2 g fiber
- 9 g protein
Pumpkin seeds are also replete with several vitamins and minerals that support energy production, bone health, and immune function, among other key body functions. These include B vitamins, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and magnesium.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Thanks to their nutrient-dense composition, pumpkin seeds offer a wide spectrum of health benefits, ranging from improved cardiovascular functioning to stronger bones. The following are some of the benefits of consuming pumpkin seeds.
1. Manage blood sugar levels
In one study of healthy adults, adding pumpkin seeds to a high-carbohydrate meal helped lower glucose levels after eating, indicating that pumpkin seeds may help with blood sugar control. (2) More studies are needed to confirm these results in adults with type 2 diabetes.
However, the balance of fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats in pumpkin seeds are known to be beneficial in blood sugar control. (3)
2. Increase “good cholesterol” levels
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids and the essential omega-6 linoleic acid, in particular. (4)
Linoleic acid has been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels, increase HDL “good” cholesterol, and lower LDL “bad” cholesterol when eaten in place of saturated fats and refined carbohydrates in the diet. (5)
Balancing cholesterol and lipid levels is crucial for reducing inflammation and reversing conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
3. Reduce inflammation
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of antioxidants such as alpha-tocopherol and carotenoids.
A study found that the tocopherol content of pumpkin seed oils ranged from 27.1 to 75.1 µg/g of oil for alpha-tocopherol, from 74.9 to 492.8 µg/g for gamma-tocopherol, and from 35.3 to 1109.7 µg/g for delta-tocopherol. (6)
ALSO READ: Foods That Promote and Reduce Inflammation
4. Help in gut health and weight management
One research investigated the fiber and phenolic content of pumpkin seeds and rind and established that the former is a rich source of dietary fiber and can be used in bakeries. (9)
Dietary fiber improves gut health by influencing the gut microbes. The role of fiber in health has extended far beyond improved laxation and includes benefits on weight management and colonic health. (10)
5. Provide magnesium
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of alkaline minerals, especially magnesium. (11) The intake of magnesium in the Western diet is usually lower than the daily recommendation. (12) This predisposes the Western population to magnesium deficiency and related disorders such as those affecting cardiac health.
6. Supply zinc
Pumpkin seed oil is a good source of zinc. (13) Nutritionists recommend consuming zinc for better outcomes of pregnancy and infant development. Taking zinc during pregnancy helps to slightly reduce preterm births. (14)
Zinc is also important for male fertility. (15) Also, low serum levels of zinc have been associated with hair loss. (16)
7. Decrease the risk of certain cancers
The cell growth inhibition for fast-growing cells together with the cell growth inhibition of prostate, breast, and colon cancer cells corroborates the ethnomedical use of pumpkin seeds for the treatment of hyperplasia that may be associated with cancer.
Moreover, due to the lack of androgenic activity, pumpkin seed applications can be regarded as safe for the prostate. (17)
Animal studies have shown that the lignins found in pumpkin seeds have the potential to treat or prevent breast cancer and colon cancer. (18)(19) The studies are usually based on the cellular extracts of pumpkin seeds or on animal models. Human trials are warranted to establish their efficacy in an advanced environment.
8. May help in managing urinary disorders
One study suggested that pumpkin seed oil extracted from C. maxima has the potential for prevention or treatment of urinary disorders such as overactive bladder syndrome and other causes of nocturia. (20)
9. Promote skin health
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of squalene. (23) Squalene is a polyunsaturated hydrocarbon that is produced in many living things, including humans, during the production of cholesterol.
Squalene is the main component of skin surface polyunsaturated lipids and shows some advantages for the skin as an emollient and antioxidant. It also promotes hydration and exhibits antitumor activities. (24)
10. May aid in mood disorders and sleep
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of tryptophan. A clinical trial studied the role of tryptophan in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. The diet designed included pumpkin seeds as a source of it. (25)
Tryptophan has been shown to have direct effects on sleep, producing an increase in rated subjective sleepiness and a decrease in total wakefulness. (26)
Some Important Points to Keep in Mind When Including Pumpkin Seeds in the Daily Diet
Pumpkin seeds are a delicious, crunchy snack that can also add protein and other nutrients to meals. When purchasing pumpkin seeds, raw or lightly salted versions are recommended so as not to introduce added oils (from roasting) or excess sodium.
You can incorporate pumpkin seeds into your diet by topping them on salads, mixing them into stir-fries, incorporating them into yogurt or oatmeal, and even baking them into breads or baked goods. Get creative and enjoy!
Is It Safe to Eat the Shell of Pumpkin Seeds?
Yes! You can eat the entire pumpkin seed. If making seeds yourself from your carved pumpkin, it is recommended to clean and roast the seeds to reduce the risk of bacteria.
Pumpkin seeds sold in the store may be found raw, roasted, or shelled and sold as pepitas, which are typically green.
Is It Advisable to Eat Pumpkin Seeds Regularly?
Pumpkin seeds make a healthy addition to a balanced eating pattern that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy, nuts and seeds, and beans and legumes. It is generally safe to consume pumpkin seeds regularly.
However, like other foods, there is always a tipping point! In particular, the excess fiber from eating more than 1–2 servings of pumpkin seeds at a time may cause gas and bloating or diarrhea in those with sensitive digestive systems. Play it safe and stick to one serving at a time.
Pumpkin seeds supply your body with dietary fiber, healthy fats, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals, all of which come with their own health benefits. However, a single food, no matter how nutritious it is, cannot significantly improve your health on its own.
Thinking that you can cure your ailments and reach the peak of your health by consuming pumpkin seeds or any such health food is grossly overestimating their true nutritional value.
Similarly, consuming copious amounts of such foods to derive more nutrition from them is also a mistake, which can harm you more than it can benefit you. Anything in excess is rarely good, which applies to your food choices as well.
All in all, you must consume pumpkin seeds in recommended amounts and as part of an overall healthy and well-balanced diet to maximize its suggested health benefits. Pumpkin seeds are safe to consume in moderation, but you must first rule out any undiagnosed food sensitivities or allergies before starting their regular intake.