Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a nutritious and delicious addition to many different types of dishes. They are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and have been linked to several health benefits, including improved heart health, prostate health, and blood sugar control. They are also a good source of plant-based protein and healthy fats.
Nutrition in Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious, providing a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. A 1/4 cup (30 grams) serving of pumpkin seeds contains the following:
- Calories: 190
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 15 grams (9 grams of which are polyunsaturated and 3 grams are monounsaturated)
- Carbohydrates: 5 grams (2 grams of which are fibre)
- Vitamin K: 37% of the RDI (recommended daily intake)
- Iron: 18% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 37% of the RDI
- Zinc: 23% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 28% of the RDI
- Copper: 22% of the RDI
- Manganese: 42% of the RDI
- Selenium: 19% of the RDI
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
1. High in Magnesium: Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function. Magnesium is also involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and helps maintain muscle and nerve function, keep a regular heartbeat, and support a healthy immune system.
2. Good for Heart Health: The high magnesium content in pumpkin seeds helps to keep your heart healthy. They also contain phytosterols, which are plant compounds similar to cholesterol and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Eating pumpkin seeds may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
3. Prostate Health: Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which is vital for maintaining prostate health. Zinc is also essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Studies have found that zinc supplementation may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer and symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
4. Blood Sugar Control: Pumpkin seeds have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels. They are high in fibre, which can slow down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, and they also contain compounds that can help to improve insulin sensitivity. This can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.
5. Plant-Based Protein: Pumpkin seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, making them a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds provides about 7 grams of protein.
6. Rich in Antioxidants: Pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, which can help to protect the body against damage from free radicals. These include compounds such as carotenoids, vitamin E, and selenium. Antioxidants can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
7. Good Source of Healthy Fats: Pumpkin seeds are high in healthy unsaturated fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body. These fatty acids are essential for maintaining healthy brain function and heart health.
8. Improve Sleep: Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep and relaxation. Tryptophan can increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.
9. Prevent Osteoporosis: Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium and zinc, two crucial minerals for maintaining healthy bones. Magnesium and zinc are essential in forming bones and teeth and can help prevent osteoporosis.
10. Prevent Certain Cancers: Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants that can help to prevent certain types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Studies have found that pumpkin seed oil may help inhibit prostate cancer cell growth.
11. Rich in vitamin K: Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin K, essential for maintaining healthy bones and blood clotting. Vitamin K also plays a role in forming bone proteins and may help prevent bone loss.
12. Health of your Skin, Hair, and Nails: Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, essential for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. They also contain other essential vitamins and minerals that support the health of these tissues. Zinc is vital for collagen synthesis and cell growth and may help to prevent hair loss and improve the health of your skin and nails
How to Use Pumpkin Seeds
There are many ways to use pumpkin seeds; here are a few:
- Snacking: Pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack on their own, either raw or roasted. They can also be seasoned with salt, spices, or sweeteners for added flavour.
- Topping: Pumpkin seeds can be used topping salads, yoghurt, oatmeal, and other dishes for added crunch and nutrition.
- Baking: Pumpkin seeds can be added to bread, muffins, and other baked goods for added texture and nutrition.
- Sauces and dips: Ground pumpkin seeds can be a thickener for sauces and dips, such as pesto or hummus.
- Trail Mix: You can add pumpkin seeds to your homemade trail mix or add them to store-bought trail mix for an extra boost of nutrition.
- Granola: Pumpkin seeds can be added to granola for added texture and nutrition.
- Soup and stew: Pumpkin seeds can be added to soups and stews as a garnish for added texture and nutrition.
- Pesto: Pumpkin seeds can be used to make a flavorful and nutritious pesto sauce, which can be used as a topping for pasta, pizza, and more.
- Tofu and tempeh: Pumpkin seeds can be added to tofu and tempeh for added texture and nutrition.
- Oil: Pumpkin seed oil can be used as a cooking oil, salad dressing, or finishing oil for soups and stews.
Overall, pumpkin seeds are versatile and nutritious ingredients that can be used in various dishes. They can be used in sweet and savoury dishes and are a great addition to any meal to boost your nutrition.
Side-Effects of Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are generally considered safe to consume and are a good source of healthy fats, protein, and minerals. However, there are a few potential risks to be aware of:
- Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic to pumpkin seeds and experience hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing.
- Interaction with Certain Medications: Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of phytosterols, which can interfere with the absorption of cholesterol-lowering medications.
- High in Fat and Calories: Pumpkin seeds are high in fat, which can be beneficial in moderation but can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess.
- High in Oxalates: eating high amounts of pumpkin seeds can cause a buildup of oxalates in the body, leading to kidney stones in people prone to them.