Pumpkin seeds are a super food with nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc. They also contain plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants.
Magnesium is essential for a healthy heart and 1/4 of a cup of pumpkin seeds provides nearly half the recommended daily requirement. Magnesium is important for a variety of physiological functions, including the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), the synthesis of RNA and DNA, the pumping of your heart, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of your blood vessels, and proper bowel function. Magnesium has been shown to benefit your blood pressure and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke, yet an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in this important mineral.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc (one ounce contains more than 2 mg of this beneficial mineral). Zinc is important to your body in many ways, including immunity, cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function.
Many people are deficient in zinc due to mineral-depleted soils, drug effects, plant-based diets, and diets high in grain. This deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, acne, low birth weight babies, learning problems and poor school performance in children.
Raw nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA).
Research suggests that both pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds may be beneficial in supporting prostate health.
Animal studies suggest that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
Pumpkin seed oil is rich in natural phytoestrogens and studies suggest it may lead to a significant increase in good “HDL” cholesterol along with decreases in blood pressure, hot flashes, headaches, joint pains and other menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid (protein building block) that your body converts into serotonin, which in turn is converted into melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” Eating pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed, along with a carbohydrate like a small piece of fruit, may be especially beneficial for providing your body the tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
Pumpkin seed oil has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. One animal study even found it worked as well as the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in treating arthritis, but without the side effects.
Pumpkin seeds, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers, may provide benefits for heart and liver health, particularly when mixed with flax seeds.
How to Buy
I like the Go Raw Sprouted Organic Pumpkin Seeds that can be found in most co-ops. You can also order them from Vitacost (a great place for vitamins and bulk items – delivers to your door).
In order to preserve the healthy fats present in the seeds, pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw. If you choose to purchase seeds from a bulk bin, make sure they smell fresh – not musty, spoiled or stale, which could indicate rancidity or the presence of fungal mycotoxins. Organic pumpkin seeds are preferred, as they will not be contaminated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
I have written the blog this week on why nuts and seeds should be soak before consuming. They have anti-nutrients like phytic acid that can make the important nutrients discussed above less bioavailable. So if you plan on consuming seeds or nuts on a regular basis, please soak or sprout them.
How to Store
Cool, dry, and in a glass container.
How to Cook
If you prefer to eat pumpkin seeds roasted, do so yourself so you can control the roasting temperature and time. Raw pumpkin seeds can be roasted on a low heat setting in your oven (no more than 170 F or 75 degrees Celsius), sprinkled with Himalayan or other seasalt, for about 15-20 minutes.
Use crushed pumpkin seeds as a crust for fish.
Toasted sprinkled over soup or salad or oatmeal.
Make pumpkin seed butter.
Add to granola.
Make pesto with herbs and garlic in a food processor.
Grind to make flour and substitute for other plant-based flours.