It’s true that pumpkins really shine in the fall, when their appearance on the doorsteps of homes across America marks the beginning of the season. Special holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving keep them going strong through December. But pumpkins can serve as more than decorations and filling for tasty pies. Pumpkin seeds, in particular, are a healthy snack that can be enjoyed year-round.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants that can contribute to a healthy diet in multiple ways. They can easily be incorporated into meals or used as a snack to potentially help boost heart health and reduce pain and inflammation, while also providing defense against a number of chronic illnesses.
Pumpkin Seed Nutrition Facts
Pumpkin seeds have a rich and diverse nutritional profile and are a great source of healthy fats, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. Here’s a better look at the overall nutrition provided by one ounce (28 grams) of dried, roasted seed kernels (also known as pepitas).
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value (DV)|
|Total carbohydrate||5 g||2%|
|Total fat||12.8 g||20%|
|Saturated fat||2.4 g||12%|
|Monounsaturated fat||4 g||—|
|Polyunsaturated fat||6 g||—|
|Vitamin A||106 IU||2%|
|Vitamin K||14.4 mcg||18%|
Pumpkins are also a good source of antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Because of their diverse nutritional profile, pumpkin seeds may offer some amazing health benefits. Let’s go over the potential perks of incorporating them into your diet:
May Aid Heart Health
There is reason to believe—and research to support—that pumpkin seeds may play a role in improved heart health. They are great source of magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure and is associated with a reduced risk for heart disease.
Both human and animal studies have indicated that pumpkin seed oil may reduce blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol, while boosting “good” HDL cholesterol.
Magnesium, omega-3, poly- and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and zinc are all associated with improved heart health and are notable components of pumpkin seeds.
May Help Manage Diabetes
Animal and human studies have shown that pumpkins seeds, as well as extracts, may help reduce blood sugar to manage diabetes. The influence on blood sugar may have something to do with pumpkin’s high magnesium content, as well as fiber. One observational study, for example, found that people with diets rich in magnesium had a 33% to 34% lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
May Contribute to a Better Sleep
There are estimates that up to 50% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, a nutrient vital for good sleep. Magnesium helps relax the body and mind to promote better quality sleep and an easier time falling asleep.
May Aid in Cancer Prevention
There is some evidence to suggest that antioxidant-rich pumpkin seeds can play a role in reducing the risk for cancer. Antioxidants help fight off the assault from damaging free radicals to keep your cells safe from mutation. Although cancer risk is influenced by a number of factors, research has indicated that pumpkin seeds were associated with a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Test-tube studies have also shown that supplements with pumpkin seeds can slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.
May Improve Prostate and Bladder Health
Several human studies have indicated that eating pumpkin seeds can reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is marked by an enlarged prostate and trouble urinating, and pumpkin seed consumption may help regulate urine urges and flow. There is other research to suggest that consuming pumpkin seeds or extracts may help tame an overactive bladder.
May Aid in Pregnancy
Pumpkin seeds contain a lot of zinc, a trace element that may contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Research has indicated that when zinc levels are low, it can influence a number of hormones associated with labor, and increasing intake during pregnancy is generally recommended.
Zinc also plays an important role in the reproductive health of men. Studies have indicated that deficiencies are associated with low sperm quality and infertility in men. The antioxidants and other nutrients in pumpkin seeds may also contribute to healthy testosterone levels in men, which can in turn influence sperm quality and fertility.
Pumpkin Seed Recipes
Pumpkin seeds can fit into most people’s diet very easily. They can be tossed into salads, roasted, and used to top a number of dishes. Or they can be a healthy snack all on their own. Here are a few cool ways to incorporate more healthy pumpkin seeds into your diet:
Mixed Berry Overnight Oats with Pumpkin Seeds
Prep Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes Serves: 2
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cup coconut or almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup organic raw honey
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup fresh mixed berries
2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seed kernels (pepitas)
2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds (with shell)
- Combine oats, plant milk of choice, three tablespoons of honey, yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Chill in refrigerator overnight, for at least six hours.
- Divide mixture into two bowls and top with berries, pepitas, and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with leftover honey on top. Tip: add more milk immediately before serving.
Pumpkin Seed & Rye Crackers
Prep Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes Serves: 24 crackers
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup pumpkin seed
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp golden caster sugar
1 large free-range egg
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Beat the egg with one cup of water, then pour into the dry mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Place mixture on a lightly floured work surface. Knead until you have a smooth, firm dough.
- Use a rolling pin to spread the dough out as thinly as possible; cut into three-inch squares. Place squares on your baking sheets. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, then remove trays from the oven. Flip each cracker over on the tray and return to the oven, swapping over the shelves, for another 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in a sealed container for up to two weeks.
Pumpkin Seed and Avocado Salad
Total Time: 15 minutes Serves: 6
10 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds
2 small avocados
2 tbsp olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
- Place washed and dried spinach leaves and pumpkin seeds in a large salad bowl.
- Slice avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh and dollop over the spinach-pumpkin seed salad.
- In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lime zest and juice. Pour in salt and whisk to emulsify.
- Drizzle dressing over the salad. Then use your hands to gently toss, all while avoiding mashing the avocado pieces.
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