Pumpkin is a very common vegetable that people see everywhere around them. Native to North America, pumpkins are one of the oldest domesticated plants, having been used as early as 7,000 to 5,500 BC. Even though people are aware that pumpkin is a vegetable that is very healthy, they often neglects the seeds of it. There is also a misconception among some people that pumpkin seeds are inedible. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas in Spanish, are not only edible, but also rich in various nutrients. This article will discuss some of the health benefits of pumpkin seeds.
Nutritional value of pumpkin seeds
28 grams of shell-free pumpkin seeds has roughly 151 calories, mainly from fat and protein.
In addition, a 28-gram serving contains:
- Fiber: 1.7 grams
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 13 grams (6 of which are omega-6s)
- Vitamin K: 18% of the recommended daily input
- Phosphorus: 33% of the recommended daily input
- Manganese: 42% of the recommended daily input
- Magnesium: 37% of the recommended daily input
- Iron: 23% of the recommended daily input
- Zinc: 14% of the recommended daily input
- Copper: 19% of the recommended daily input
They also contain a lot of antioxidants and a decent amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, potassium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and folate.
Pumpkin seeds and seed oil also pack many other nutrients and plant compounds that have been shown to provide health benefits
Benefits of pumpkin seeds
The fresh pumpkin seeds look white in colour. The shell of the seeds is removed to get the green-coloured inner kernel. The presence of the protochlorophyll pigment also contributes to the green colour of the seeds. According to scientists, these healthy edible seeds are packed with several valuable nutrients. They are a rich source of protein and fibre and contain minerals and vitamins like magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, iron, vitamin K, vitamin E and so on.
- Source of anti-oxidants: Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E. Antioxidants can reduce inflammation and protect your cells from harmful free radicals. That’s why consuming foods rich in antioxidants can help protect against many diseases. It’s thought that the high levels of antioxidants in pumpkins seeds are partly responsible for their positive effects on health. In one study, pumpkin seed oil reduced inflammation in rats with arthritis without side effects, whereas animals given an anti-inflammatory drug experienced adverse effects.
- Helps maintain heart health: Pumpkin seeds are a good source of antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and fatty acids. These are all nutrients which may help keep the heart healthy. The high magnesium content in pumpkin seeds helps lower and regulate blood pressure. Thanks to this effect, diets high in magnesium are associated with a lower risk of stroke and death from heart disease. It has been seen that antioxidants in pumpkin seeds also increase nitric oxide levels in the body. This molecule works to keep the blood vessels smooth, flexible, and healthy, improving blood flow and reducing the risk of heart and circulation problems.
- Protects from cancer: Diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers. A large observational study found that eating them was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It has also been suggested that the lignans in pumpkin seeds may play a key role in preventing and treating breast cancer. They also induce apoptosis or cancer cell death. These effects are largely attributed to pumpkin seeds’ high antioxidant activity.
- Boosts immunity: Pumpkin seeds have a very high amount of vitamin E and other antioxidants like zinc.
Vitamin E helps strengthen the immune system and maintain healthy blood vessels. As a matter of fact, it has been seen that many seeds are good sources of vitamin E. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant and prevents free radicals from damaging healthy cells in our body. Zinc protects our body from inflammation, allergies and invading pathogens, thus preventing infections and increasing overall immunity.
- Good for hair and skin: Pumpkin seeds contain a huge amount of Vitamin E. This is known to be very beneficial for hair. It not only makes the hair strong, but also reduces breakage. Along with that, the hair also becomes smoother and shinier. Similarly, due to the large number of anti-oxidants present in pumpkin seeds, they seem to have a positive effect on they skin. They have been seen to reduce wrinkles, and make the skin softer. It also has anti-bacterial properties that helps reduce acne.
Side effects of consuming pumpkin seeds
- Eating pumpkin seeds in excess can cause stomach ache, flatulence, bloating and constipation.
- Since pumpkin seeds are loaded with calories, eating them in excess can lead to weight gain.
- Pumpkin seeds help to lower blood sugar levels. These seeds should be consumed in moderation by diabetics on medication and also people suffering from hypoglycemia.
- Pumpkin seeds are not thought to be highly allergenic, but in rare cases, you may experience an allergy.
Tips for consuming pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be enjoyed as is. However, there are plenty of other ways to eat pumpkin seeds and reap their benefits.
- Roast shelled pumpkin seeds.
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds onto oatmeal or overnight oats, yogurt, avocado toast, or fruit salad.
- Add them to salads or as a garnish for slaw, hummus, cooked vegetables, soups, and stir fries.
- Whip pumpkin seed protein into smoothies, blended soups, or mashed cauliflower to boost the protein content.
- Incorporate pumpkin seed butter into pesto, sauces, smoothies, energy balls, or baked goods.
If you eat shelled pumpkin seeds, make sure to drink plenty of water to help your digestive system process their fiber content. While extremely rare, there have been a couple reports of men experiencing intestinal blockages after consuming large quantities of pumpkin seeds in the shell.
It is important to remember that even though there are a lot of health benefits of pumpkin seeds, everything should be consumed in moderation.