Pumpkins are an integral part of the holiday season. From pumpkin carving to sweet pumpkin spice to fresh pumpkin pie, it’s hard to imagine fall without this bright orange fruit. Unfortunately, pumpkin seeds, like pumpkin seed oil, often get lost in the mix and are frequently discarded or ignored altogether in favor of the vibrant pumpkin pulp.
However, there are many benefits of pumpkin seeds that make them a worthy addition to your diet, both during the holidays and all year round. In fact, some of the power-packed benefits of pumpkin seeds include better heart health, improved blood sugar levels, enhanced sleep quality and more.
Ready to learn more about why you should consider saving the seeds next time you’re elbows-deep carving a fresh Halloween pumpkin? Here’s what you need to know.
- Rich in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
- Boost Heart Health
- Stabilize Blood Sugar
- Promote Sleep Quality
- Improve Male Health
- Help Fight Cancer Cell Growth
- Improve Bladder Function
1. Rich in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which are powerful compounds that can fight free radical formation and protect cells against oxidative stress. Some research also indicates that antioxidants may aid in the prevention of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. (1)
According to one animal model out of Cairo University in Egypt and published in Pharmacological Research, pumpkin seed oil was able to reduce inflammation and prevent free radical damage in rats with arthritis. (2) Another animal study out of South Africa showed that a specific type of protein extracted from pumpkin seed was effective at protecting against liver damage thanks to its powerful antioxidant properties. (3)
2. Boost Heart Health
Pumpkin seed, and pumpkin seed oil in particular, has been shown to boost heart health and help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in several different ways. For starters, animal studies show that pumpkin seed oil could help decrease cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, both of which are two of the major risk factors for heart disease. (4, 5)
One human study conducted at the University of the West Indies’ Department of Basic Medical Sciences in Jamaica even found that pumpkin seed oil supplements were able to decrease diastolic blood pressure while increasing levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol in the blood. (6) Plus, pumpkin seeds may also increase levels of nitric oxide in the body. This can dilate the blood vessels and promote blood flow to help the heart work more efficiently. (7)
3. Stabilize Blood Sugar
One of the top pumpkin seeds benefits is its ability to regulate blood sugar levels to prevent spikes and crashes. This is incredibly important. Why? Sustaining high levels of blood sugar can cause diabetes symptoms, such as increased thirst, fatigue, frequent urination and nausea.
Pumpkin seed is rich in protein and fiber, both of which can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream to promote better blood sugar control. (8, 9) Interestingly enough, a 2011 animal model published in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications even reported that combining pumpkin seeds with flax not only improved antioxidant status in rats, but was also effective at reducing the risk of diabetes complications. (10)
4. Promote Sleep Quality
Can’t sleep? You may want to consider adding a dose of pumpkin seed to your daily diet. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of several nutrients that are associated with better sleep quality, including tryptophan and magnesium.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is well-known for its ability to enhance sleep quality, especially in those with sleep disturbances. (11) Meanwhile, magnesium is an important micronutrient that is shown to help improve several measures of insomnia, including sleep efficiency, length of sleep and the amount of time that it takes to fall asleep at night. (12)
5. Improve Male Health
Some research indicates that pumpkin seeds may be especially beneficial for men in particular. In fact, they can help improve male fertility and prostate health.
One 2012 animal model showed that supplementing with pumpkin seed oil was effective at preventing sperm abnormalities and increasing sperm count in rats. (13) Another study showed that pairing pumpkin seed oil with saw palmetto was able to decrease symptoms and improve quality of life in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a common condition characterized by the enlargement of the prostate gland. (14)
6. Help Fight Cancer Cell Growth
Thanks to its high content of antioxidants, pumpkin seed may help fight the growth and spread of cancer cells to aid in cancer prevention.
In vitro research conducted by the University of Rostock in Germany found that phytoestrogen extracts of pumpkin seeds had anticancer properties and could possibly play a role in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. (15) Additionally, according to a review published in Food Research International, diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been linked to a lower risk of several types of cancer, including breast, stomach, lung and colorectal cancer. (16)
7. Improve Bladder Function
Pumpkin seeds have been shown to improve symptoms of BPH, a condition that can cause difficulty urinating in men. Not only that, but pumpkin seed oil may also help improve other aspects of bladder function. One study showed that it was able to significantly improve symptoms of overactive bladder and correct urinary dysfunction. (17)
One ounce (about 28 grams) of dried, hulled pumpkin seeds contains approximately: (18)
- 151 calories
- 5 grams carbohydrates
- 7 grams protein
- 13 grams fat
- 1.1 grams dietary fiber
- 0.8 milligram manganese (42 percent DV)
- 151 milligrams magnesium (37 percent DV)
- 329 milligrams phosphorus (33 percent DV)
- 4.2 milligrams iron (23 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram copper (19 percent DV)
- 14.4 micrograms vitamin K (18 percent DV)
- 2.1 milligrams zinc (14 percent DV)
- 226 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (5 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, the pumpkin seed nutrition profile also contains a small amount of folate, vitamin B6, thiamine, vitamin A and selenium.
Uses in Traditional Medicine
Long revered for their health-promoting properties, pumpkin seeds have been a staple in traditional forms of medicine for thousands of years. Indigenous groups in North America, for example, once used them to remove tapeworms and parasites from the digestive tract.
Meanwhile, on an Ayurvedic diet, pumpkin seeds are often considered alkalizing. They also are thought to nourish the blood, act as a natural diuretic, suppress appetite and improve reproductive health in men.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pumpkin seeds are used to help treat a variety of different conditions. They are believed to support lactation in mothers, promote healthy digestion, prevent parasitic infections and reduce stomach pain.
Pumpkin Seeds vs. Sunflower Seeds
Without a doubt, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are two of the most popular seed varieties enjoyed for their savory flavor and incredible versatility. Both are high in fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats, plus an assortment of essential vitamins and minerals. However, there are several unique differences between these two power-packed ingredients.
Pumpkin seeds are flat, oval-shaped and light green. They’re also enclosed in a white hull. Sunflower seeds, on the other hand, are tan and covered by a black-striped shell. Both have smooth textures and light, nutty tastes that work well with just about any spice or seasoning.
In terms of nutrition, a single ounce of pumpkin seeds typically supplies a higher amount of protein and a lower amount of calories, fat and fiber. Pumpkin seeds are also richer in magnesium, iron and manganese, while sunflower seeds are a better source of pantothenic acid, folate and copper.
Where to Find and How to Use
Pumpkin seeds are easy to find at most online retailers and grocery stores. They are typically located in the snack aisle alongside other seeds like sunflower seeds. If you have difficulty finding pumpkin seeds at your local store, you can also look for “pepitas.” Pepitas are the same thing but without the shell.
If you’re looking to use them for a pumpkin seeds recipe, skip the roasted pumpkin seeds or other pre-made varieties and look for raw seeds instead. Alternatively, you can also go directly to the source and try seeding a pumpkin at home instead.
After you get your hands on some of these super seeds, you may wonder how to clean pumpkin seeds, how to dry pumpkin seeds and how to prepare pumpkin seeds for eating. If they’re fresh, start by rinsing the seeds with cold water in a colander and then shake them dry. Avoid using a paper towel or dish cloth to dry the seeds as they may get stuck.
There are plenty of different methods for how to cook pumpkin seeds. Roasting them in the oven is perhaps the most common. Spread the seeds in a thin layer on an oiled baking tray and bake in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with olive oil, salt and your choice of roasted pumpkin seeds seasoning — such as paprika, oregano, cumin or chili powder. Place back in the oven and bake about 20 more minutes, until they’re crispy with a nice golden color.
After roasting your pumpkin seeds, you can enjoy them as a delicious snack; toss them over salads, cereal or yogurt; or mix them into trail mix alongside a variety of other nuts and seeds. You can also enjoy raw pumpkin seeds as a healthy and delicious no-fuss snack that carries the same assortment of health benefits.
Pumpkin Seed Recipes
Wondering what to do with pumpkin seeds and how to start incorporating them into your daily diet?
There are limitless options for how to eat pumpkin seeds and plenty of pumpkin seeds recipe ideas out there, from honey roasted pepitas to baked pumpkin seeds and beyond. Here are a few delicious ideas to get you going:
- Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Pumpkin Breakfast Bites
- Vegetarian Pozole Verde
- Vanilla Pumpkin Seed Clusters
- Tropical Acai Bowl
The pumpkin is a cultivar of the squash plant that is thought to originate in North America thousands of years ago. In fact, archaeologists actually found pumpkin seeds in certain areas of Mexico that date back to around 7000 B.C.
These seeds were used in many forms of traditional medicine. They were prized for both their unique flavor and potent healing properties. Indigenous groups in North America often used pumpkin seeds for their gut-healing effects as a treatment for parasitic infections and tapeworm symptoms. Meanwhile, Aztec groups used pumpkin seed as both a source of nutrition and a ritual offering for religious ceremonies.
Spanish settlers brought pumpkin seeds back to Europe and Asia, where they began gaining widespread popularity. They were quickly integrated into many types of cooking and cuisine. Today, these popular seeds are slowly being recognized for their incredible nutrient profile and the extensive health benefits that they have to offer.
Risks and Side Effects
Many processed, prepackaged pumpkin seed products are high in sodium or contain additives and extra ingredients that can be harmful for your health. Select products that are low in sodium with minimal ingredients listed on the label. Better yet, choose raw pumpkin seeds and try making them at home yourself.
Additionally, although the shell of the pumpkin seed is edible, it may irritate the stomach and cause digestive issues for some people. It can also be difficult to chew for those with chewing or swallowing difficulties. If you find that you’re unable to tolerate shelled pumpkin seeds, opt for hulled seeds instead. They carry nearly the same nutrient profile and health benefits.
Be sure to keep intake in moderation. Eating large amounts of pumpkin seeds may cause adverse side effects like constipation, gas or bloating. Additionally, these seeds contain a concentrated amount of calories, so going overboard could potentially contribute to weight gain.
Many people also wonder: Can dogs eat pumpkin seeds? Both raw and roasted pumpkin seeds can be safely enjoyed by pups and are sometimes even added to natural dog treat recipes. Be sure to stick to homemade pumpkin seeds, however, and skip the heavily processed varieties you might find at the store.
- The pumpkin seed is a delicious type of seed that has been enjoyed around the globe for thousands of years.
- The pumpkin seeds nutrition profile includes a good amount of protein and fiber, plus important vitamins and minerals like manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Thanks to their stellar nutrient content, some of the potential health benefits of pumpkin seeds include better blood sugar levels, improved heart health, enhanced sleep quality, decreased cancer growth and increased urinary function.
- There are plenty of options for how to roast pumpkin seeds, but you can also enjoy them raw or add them to salads, smoothies, cereals or desserts for a nutritious addition to any recipe.
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