Pumpkin seeds are delicious and often overlooked parts of a pumpkin, which have many health benefits and nutrients packed into their small shape. Pumpkin seeds help boost immunity and metabolism, reduce weight, uplift mood, and improve sleep. Other major benefits of pumpkin seeds include increasing the level of testosterone and hair growth in men, protecting against cancer and parasites, eliminating kidney stones, improving heart health, treating diabetes, protecting bone health, and faster healing of wounds.
What are Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are the flat, oval-shaped seeds of the pumpkin or squash. They are light green on the inside, but their hull is white in color. They are traditionally a seasonal snack, consumed during autumn when most of the squash and pumpkin varieties are fully grown. Most pumpkin seeds come with their shell or endosperm still attached, particularly when they are eaten after being roasted, which is the most common way of consuming them. They can, however, be shelled, and the inner germ can be eaten as a healthy snack with less work and chewing involved.
Pumpkins are traditionally associated with Central American, Mexican, and Native American cuisine, but the genus Cucurbita has other species of squash that have long been grown and cultivated in Europe and Russia, so pumpkin seeds can also be found in those areas of the world as a popular snack food. The popularity of pumpkin seeds has spurred companies to serve them dried like sunflower seeds throughout the year.
We know that pumpkin seeds have been a part of cultural cuisines since the time of the Aztecs. However, it is very likely that they have been important far longer than that, considering that squash is frequently grouped as one of the first three agricultural products in ancient North American history. There must be something good about these seeds for them to have been around for thousands of years; let’s find out a bit more.
Pumpkin Seeds Nutrition Facts
The staggering health benefits of pumpkin seeds come from its nutrients such as protein and unsaturated fats like omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. The other nutrients present in pumpkin seeds include impressive levels of manganese, tryptophan, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, zinc, iron, as well as smaller amounts of B complex vitamins, vitamin K and vitamin A. Furthermore, pumpkin seeds have phytosterols, an organic compound that also contributes to their healthy qualities.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Let’s take a closer look at some of the health benefits of pumpkin seeds below.
Heart Health & Cholesterol Control
Organic compounds like phytosterols and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids present in pumpkin seeds are directly connected to lower LDL cholesterol levels. These compounds are also responsible to prevent blood clots and atherosclerosis, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Pumpkin seed extracts contain several anti-cancer properties and components, including lignans. These compounds have directly been attributed to scavenging free radicals in test subjects that were given pumpkin seed extract. Antioxidants are powerful substances that help the body get rid of free radicals, the dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that can lead to a host of diseases, including cancer!
If you’re feeling tired or stressed after a long day, you can turn to pumpkin seeds to calm yourself down and get a good night’s sleep. Pumpkin seeds are rich sources of both magnesium and tryptophan. Both are closely associated with sedation and soothing qualities that stimulate sleep. These seeds can help your head hit the pillow for peaceful rest all night due to those two vital components.
Improve Prostate Health
Pumpkin seeds are good for relieving the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, primarily due to their high zinc content. This keeps the prostate healthy, which is one of the most common places for men to develop cancer. Also, for men, low levels of zinc leads to a drop in testosterone levels. The zinc in pumpkin seeds also ensures high fertility by boosting healthy sperm quality in men.
Hair Growth in Men
Studies reveal that pumpkin seed oil is beneficial for hair growth in men. Low levels of androgen are believed to cause hair loss problems in males. The oil increases androgen levels in men. Thus, a handful of pumpkin seeds every day can prove to be beneficial for hair growth.
Pumpkin seeds are also known to treat various types of cancer including stomach, prostate, lung, colon, and breast cancer. Due to its antioxidant activity pumpkin seeds also known to reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
The high magnesium content in pumpkin seeds is responsible for lowering the blood sugar levels in the body. By increasing insulin production and reducing oxidative stress in the body, they help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Prevent Parasitic Activity
Pumpkin seeds have long been associated with anti-parasitic activity and have been used traditionally to eliminate tapeworms and other dangerous parasites in the body. For children, who are the most susceptible to worms, pumpkin seeds provide a delicious snack and a very important defensive line against those worms, which can result in malnutrition, incorrect growth patterns, and even death.
Certain studies have shown that pumpkin seeds have anti-inflammatory properties in the body, which is one of the common uses of this delicious snack. Inflammation can often be the result of various deficiencies, including that of protein, various vitamins, and minerals. Inflammatory conditions like arthritis can be debilitating, so adding good amounts of protein and anti-inflammatory compounds into your body will prevent that. This will also help keep the tissues healthy. Pumpkin seeds have been directly associated with a decrease in inflammation and the associated pain of arthritis.
Prevent Kidney Stones
Pumpkin seeds are related to reducing toxins in the body, due to their diuretic properties, as well as the antioxidant activity. Furthermore, they stimulate circulation and increase the speed and processing of liver and kidney functions. Uric acid and various other toxins are therefore removed from the body, which means they cannot accumulate into dangerous kidney stones or other forms, like gout and arthritis, as mentioned earlier. Pumpkin seeds promote good health of kidneys and help to detoxify the body from top to bottom.
Our body functions at its best when all our systems are working efficiently. Having a stable and adequate amount of protein in your diet is essential because proteins are made up of amino acids, which are used in thousands of necessary enzymatic and metabolic processes every day. Without those essential amino acids and proteins, our bodies would cease to function, and we would become weak, lethargic, unhealthy, slow-witted, and exhausted.
Good Source of Protein
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of protein. 30% of pumpkin seed volume is made of protein. There are 39 grams of protein in a single cup (129 grams) of dried pumpkin seeds, which is more than 50% of our daily requirement of protein.
Pumpkin seeds are extremely popular due to their effects on osteoporosis. They have high levels of zinc, calcium, copper, and other minerals that are linked to increased bone density. Studies have shown that regular intake of pumpkin seeds can reduce bone weakness and the symptoms of osteoporosis.
Reduce Blood Pressure
Furthermore, the high copper levels in pumpkin seeds increase red blood cell count in the body and improve oxygenated passage of blood through the vessels. This fact, combined with low sodium content, can improve heart health by reducing blood pressure, so pumpkin seeds should be considered a valuable cardiovascular booster.
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
There are many ways to eat pumpkin seeds, but the healthiest way is to eat them raw. You can also roast or toast the seeds, add them to salads, bread, pesto, and more. Some people also add them to rice puddings, soups, and gravies.
Before consuming these seeds, make sure that they have been properly washed and stored, and that they are not stale. You can also sprout them and use in place of other seeds like butternut squash seeds, acorns, and more!
Words of Caution: Pumpkin seeds are very high in calories, so they can exacerbate obesity. Also, there has been limited evidence that they can cause ejaculation problems in some men.