12 Key Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) are flat, dark green seeds native to the Americas. These seeds were even popular way back in 1300-1500 AD in the Aztec cultures of South America. From the Americas, the seeds spread to the rest of the world. Now pumpkin seeds are a standard part of European and Asian cuisine. China is the world’s major producer of pumpkins and pumpkin seeds followed by India, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico and the U.S.
Pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the gourd (Cucurbitaceae) family. Some seeds are encased in a yellow-white husk (called shell). The subtle, sweet nutty flavor and malleable, chewy texture make them a nutritious and delicious treat the whole year through.
Quarter cup (32.25g) of pumpkin seeds contain manganese – 73.5%; tryptophan – 53.1%; magnesium – 47.7%; phosphorus – 39.7%; copper – 21.5%; protein - 19.5%; zinc -16.8%; iron – 15.7%. Every 100g of pumpkin seeds gives 559 calories.
Roasted, shelled pumpkin seeds contain about 10 mg of zinc per 3.5 ounces while shelled roasted pumpkin seeds (also called pumpkin seed kernels) contain about 7-8 mg.
Pumpkin seeds’ antioxidant and vitamin E diversity (pumpkin seeds contain these in a wide variety of forms) give them their uniqueness. They are rich in Vitamin K.
- Pumpkin seeds are a good source of minerals that are beneficial to bone health, the immune system, and boost energy.
- The protein content of pumpkin seeds helps in muscle building and reduces arthritis related inflammation.
- Magnesium content in pumpkin seeds makes it a natural relaxant.
- Tryptophan present in pumpkin seeds enhances sleep and helps lower depression.
- Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of fiber.
- Zinc in pumpkin seeds helps protect from prostate problems (prostate cancer, enlargement of prostate).
- Its diuretic property helps treat bed-wetting in children and helps soothe bladder facilitating smooth urine passage.
- Pumpkin seeds are a natural remedy for tapeworm and other parasites.
- They contain phytosterol compounds that help lower cholesterol.
- It has an alkalizing effect thus helping in maintaining the acidity of the body.
- They have the ability to prevent kidney stone formation.
- Pumpkin seeds help stabilize the blood sugar thus aiding weight loss.
To save seeds from the pumpkin, gather seeds and rinse to remove any attached strands of pumpkin. Roast to remove excess moisture. Add spices like salt, nutmeg give flavor to the seeds. Cool the seeds before storing to avoid trapping of moisture. Store in an airtight container. Refrigerate or freeze. In case of immediate consumption, do not refrigerate. Try to consume within two months since they lose their freshness after that.
Pumpkin seeds are normally pre-packed in containers. When purchasing in bulk, check for freshness, moisture, insect damage before buying. In case of rancid or musty smell, do not buy.
It is recommended to purchase certified organic raw pumpkin seeds. Organic seeds help avoid contamination. With raw seeds, one can control the roasting to bring out the flavors and avoid damage to helpful fats.
HOW TO CONSUME
Roast for no more than 15-20 minutes to preserve the health benefits. Eat raw or roast in a baking sheet on low heat in the oven (about 75 degrees C). Eat the entire pumpkin seeds with the shell to maximize the zinc intake. Can season the seeds with little salt, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, or curry powder. Add raw seeds to salads and dips. Make a salad dressing by grinding pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley and cilantro leaves and mix with olive oil and lemon juice. Add pumpkin seeds to oatmeal raisin cookie or granola recipes. Add ground pumpkin seeds while making vegetable burgers. Add chopped seeds to cereal. The oil extracted from the seeds is used as base oil for aromatherapy massages.
Side effects of pumpkin seeds are extremely rare. Before using pumpkin seeds and diuretics, it is advisable to consult a health-care provider.