Pumpkins get all the attention during the fall, and the seeds are either thrown away or an afterthought. The reason people discard pumpkin seeds is because they are entangled in the stringy, slimy pumpkin flesh that you remove from the pumpkins when you carve them. As it turns out, the seeds offer healthy fats, magnesium, zinc, and other nutrients that can improve heart health and fight back against some cancers.
Nutritional Value Of Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, often times referred to as pepitas, pack a diverse nutritional punch. Now, if you buy pumpkin seeds at the store, you’ll notice that they are green, flat, and oval. They are not the white, hard seeds that you scoop out of a pumpkin. The white part is actually the shell and the green seed is inside. A one-ounce serving of shell-free pumpkin seeds contains:
- 151 calories
- 7 grams of protein
- 13 grams of fat
- 1.7 grams of fiber
- 5 grams of carbohydrates
- 18% of the RDI of vitamin K
- 42% of the RDI of manganese
- 37% of the RDI of magnesium
- 33% of the RDI of phosphorus
- 14% of the RDI of zinc
- 19% of the RDI of copper
- 23% of the RDI of iron
May Reduce Risk Of Breast Cancer
Pumpkin seeds contain a high concentration of antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin E, both of which help to reduce free radical damage and inflammation. One study found that regularly consuming pumpkin seeds helped reduce breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Another study found that they provided some protection for premenopausal women as well. Other studies suggest that the lignans in pumpkin seeds play a large role in reducing breast cancer risk, but more studies are needed to determine their effectiveness against cancerous cells.
May Improve Heart Health
As we mentioned earlier in the article, pumpkin seeds are rich in unsaturated fats, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This acid may play a role in a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly when added to a balanced diet. Several studies found that pumpkin seeds help to increase nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide helps to improve blood flow by expanding blood vessels. It also reduces the risk of plaque build-up in the arteries.
May Improve Quality Of Sperm
Men who have low levels of zinc typically have reduced sperm quality and an increased risk of infertility. According to a study on mice, zinc may protect male sperm from chemotherapy damage and autoimmune disorders. Other research points to the fact that pumpkin seed oil benefits the prostate. Finally, The concentration of antioxidants and other nutrients can help improve testosterone levels, which may have a positive impact on fertility and reproductive health in men.
May Improve Sleep Quality
Normally, we advise against eating close to bedtime, but pumpkin seeds happen to be a great late night snack. They are naturally rich in tryptophan, which is an amino acid that promotes sleep. The downside is that you have to eat seven ounces of pumpkin seeds to obtain one gram of tryptophan, which is the suggested amount to improve sleep. That amount of pumpkin seeds racks up more than 1,000 calories. The zinc in pumpkin seeds helps convert tryptophan to serotonin, which the body converts to melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep cycle. Additionally, pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, another mineral that encourages more restful sleep.
May Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Pumpkin seeds have hypoglycemic properties, which may help balance blood sugar levels. Several studies revealed that consuming pumpkin seed powder or pumpkin juice can reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. One observational study with 127,000 people found that men who consumed more magnesium had a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes and women had a 34% lower risk. Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in magnesium so eat up!
May Optimize Immune Function
We’ve covered the fact that pumpkin seeds are excellent sources zinc and iron. What we didn’t cover is that the body needs both of these minerals for optimal immune function. Additionally, pumpkin seeds have antiviral and anti-fungal properties, which help the immune system fight foreign invaders or infections in the body.