Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Nothing seems more like fall than roasted pumpkin seeds—and, lucky for us, they have a whole host of health benefits. Read on for pumpkin seed nutrition, why pumpkin seeds are so healthy and how to roast the best pumpkin seeds.
Pictured: Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a seasonal favorite we get excited to make every fall. Ring in the season by filling your house with the smells of a snack you can feel good about: roasted pumpkin seeds. There are some pretty impressive health benefits of pumpkin seeds, giving you all the more reason for making pumpkin seeds this year. Not to mention, you could win fall by making the best pumpkin seed recipe: Pumpkin Seeds with Everything Bagel Seasoning.
Pumpkin Seed Nutrition
Pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy nutrients, like fiber and protein, and also contain impressive amounts of the micronutrients magnesium and zinc. The pumpkin seeds' protein and fiber content is considered high for a snack and is a combination that can help keep you feeling full. One serving (1 ounce, about 85 seeds) of roasted pumpkin seeds boasts:
- 126 calories
- 15 grams carbs
- 5 grams fiber
- 6 grams fat
- 5 grams protein
Raw pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas, which comes from the Mexican word "little seed of the squash", or pepitas de calabaza) differ slightly in nutrition. Pepitas are hulled pumpkin seeds, so they are smaller and greener in color than traditional pumpkin seeds. There are more seeds per ounce and, with that, more calories, protein and fat per serving. Without the hull, they are lower in carbohydrates and thus fiber. They are best consumed raw or as a substitute for pine nuts in pesto (a must-try!).
Pictured: Ranch Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seed Benefits
Here are all the ways pumpkin seeds help to boost our health.
They have helpful antioxidants
Due to their healthy fat content, pumpkin seeds are chock-full of fat-loving antioxidants, like tocopherols and phenols. These specific antioxidants protect the body against oxidative damage, which helps to decrease the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease and cancer. Not only do pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants, but also they also may help inhibit inflammation. Though the mechanisms of this aren't fully understood yet, it could provide an explanation for the array of health benefits from pumpkin seeds.
They may help protect against cancer
People, listen to this: several studies have linked pumpkin seeds to reduced risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Ladies first: a study published in Nutrition and Cancer found that postmenopausal women had a reduced their risk for breast cancer associated with higher consumption of dietary lignans, an antioxidant found in pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and soybeans. Another lab study specifically studied pumpkin seed extract on breast cancer cells and found that the expression of breast cancer was reduced and tumor growth was slowed as a result. Happy Halloween, indeed.
Gents, you get to join in on the fun as well. The International Journal of Oncology published exciting findings on a natural supplement called ProstaCaid. This supplement was shown to suppress growth and reduce the size of prostate tumors, and contains pumpkin seed extract along with a host of other natural extracts. Pumpkin seed oil was also found to be a successful alternative or complementary treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, the medical term for uncomfortable and frequent urination, which is common for men as they age.
They can boost your heart health
One serving of pumpkin seeds provides about 20% of your recommended daily magnesium needs, making it a great source of magnesium. The American Heart Journal published a study showing that people with the highest blood magnesium levels had the lowest risk of death from cardiac disease. Additionally, UK researchers reviewed several studies that found magnesium supplementation was successful in helping reduce blood pressure. Aside from magnesium alone, women who supplemented with pumpkin seed oil had significantly increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. HDLs are the "good" cholesterol that helps keep your arteries clear and free from plaque buildup.
They might help you lose weight
There is good news surrounding pumpkin seeds for weight loss. Research has shown promising benefits on how the small seed may help you achieve a healthy weight. Pumpkin seeds are packed with fiber. Regular consumption of at least 25 grams of fiber a day has been shown to reduce your risk for obesity, and one serving of pumpkin seeds get you 20% of the way there. Pumpkin seeds can also help reduce and stabilize your blood glucose. Flax and pumpkin seeds were shown to reduce blood glucose in rats with diabetes down to a normal range. This has implications for weight loss, but also could be beneficial for people with diabetes or prediabetes.
Pictured: Salt & Vinegar Pumpkin Seeds
How to Cook Pumpkin Seeds
If you don't already know how to roast pumpkin seeds, making them is simple and easy. You scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin, clean them off, toss them with oil and seasonings (like salt, everything bagel seasoning or chili powder) and spread them on a baking sheet to roast. Our foolproof Roasted Pumpkin Seeds recipe follows this simple process. The end result is a crispy, crunchy delicious snack. Another method for cooking pumpkin seeds to achieve a similar crunchy texture is to sauté them on the stovetop.
Tasty Flavor Combos to Try:
Fall's favorite seed holds a host of benefits-from providing fiber and antioxidants to potentially protecting against cancer and heart disease. There are several ways to enjoy them to reap the benefits. You can skip fancy extracts or supplements and just enjoy your roasted or raw pumpkin seeds as is. For inspiration, here are some Healthy Pumpkin Seed Recipes to try.