Including healthy snacks in your children’s lunchbox and in your family’s daily diet can go a long way to supporting your family’s health. Nuts and seeds can be a valuable source of vitamins and minerals and they can also be hugely beneficial in supporting your family’s short and long-term health.
Pumpkin seeds (sometimes called pepitas) are not often included in the list of healthy snacks, and yet pumpkin seeds can be a great source of vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
At 285 calories per cup, pumpkin seeds are a great addition to any diet. They contain calcium, iron, magnesium, and a host of other beneficial nutrients that can support and promote optimal health and well-being.
Here are some of the amazing benefits of pumpkin seeds:
Pumpkin Seeds Boost the Immune System
Pumpkin seeds are an abundant source of zinc which is also one the best 6 nutrients for boosting your immune system. Zinc is vital for supporting your immune health and a lack of zinc can leave you prone to infections.
Pumpkin Seeds are Powerful Antioxidants
Over and above the zinc contained in pumpkin seeds, which is also an antioxidant, pumpkin seeds are an abundant source of vitamin E which also one of 9 antioxidants for great health. These antioxidants can protect the body from free radical damage.
Pumpkin Seeds Help Fight Inflammation
Pumpkin seeds are not only antioxidants, but the ingredients in pumpkin seeds may actually help to reduce inflammatory chemicals in the body and you can consume them in addition to other foods that can reduce inflammation. Inflammation has been implicated as the underlying cause of many of the serious modern diseases we face like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Controlling inflammation may offer a way to prevent or even treat these diseases.
In another study published in Scientific World, individuals who consumed 30 g of milled seeds that included pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds, saw a reduction in IL6 and improved triglyceride levels. In other words, this mix reduced inflammation and it promoted cardiovascular health by lowering triglyceride levels.
Pumpkin Seeds are Anti-diabetic
Diabetes is a growing concern with millions of Americans suffering from the consequences of the disease. Blood sugar levels and the regulation of blood sugar is a crucial component in managing the disease and is vital for preventing diabetes.
Pumpkin seeds contain ingredients called Trigonelline, Nicotinic acid, and D-chiro-inositol. In a study published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers indicated that these ingredients can support healthy blood sugar regulation and control.
It is important to consume pumpkin seeds in their raw form to obtain all the nutritional benefits from these seeds. The age of the seeds and their freshness can also play a role in their nutritional value.
Pumpkin Seeds are Anti-carcinogenic
Pumpkin seeds contain ingredients that are classified as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants that have similar properties to the estrogens found naturally in the body.
The phytoestrogens in pumpkin seeds may help to regulate some of the factors that play a role in breast cancer development and they may therefore be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of breast cancer. They may also reduce the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer development.
Adding pumpkin seeds to your salads or side dishes can be a crunchy way to include pumpkin seeds in your daily diet. You can also consume them with oily fish that were also shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Pumpkin Seeds may Support Healthy Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Health
The phytoestrogens in pumpkin seeds are not only beneficial for protecting you from the risks of developing cancer but may actually play a role in regulating cholesterol levels in the body. Please be aware that there are various opinions about the role of cholesterol in our body and there are few things that your doctor will not tell you about cholesterol.
In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, researchers showed that the consumption of pumpkin seed oil may help to regulate blood lipid levels and blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of magnesium and magnesium is vital for supporting heart health and for regulating your blood pressure.
Pumpkin seed oil extracts can be found as supplements and adding pumpkin seeds to your breads or bakes can be a great way to include pumpkin seeds in your diet.
Pumpkin Seeds Promote Healthy Sleep
Tryptophan and L-tryptophan are essential for supporting healthy sleep and rest periods and for supporting overall mental health. Your body converts tryptophan into serotonin and this hormone is essential for supporting healthy sleep periods and for optimal mood regulation.
100 gram of pumpkin seeds contain a massive 576 mg of tryptophan. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of vital B vitamins and they contain glutamate, the compound used to produce GABA for the brain. GABA is the anti-stress neurotransmitter that helps to inhibit over excitement, which can in turn be detrimental to sleep.
Since pumpkin seeds offer a delicious nutty crunch, adding them as a topping on a healthy dessert such as a fruit salad can be a great way to incorporate them into your daily dietary intake to support mental health and to promote optimal sleep.
Pumpkin Seeds Benefit the Eyes
Vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are all compounds that can help to support and promote eye health. Pumpkin seeds contain all of these nutrients and more. That is why pumpkin seeds may be a powerful ally in supporting eye health and function.
The AREDS study published by the National Eye Institute found that 80 mg of zinc in combination with other antioxidants lowered the risk of macular degeneration by up to 25%.
Zinc and vitamin A are vital for the production of melanin, a compound that the body produces to protect the eyes. The American Optometric Association also recommends zinc on a daily basis to support optimal eye health.
What’s the Best Way to Consume Pumpkin Seeds?
You should eat raw pumpkin seeds as this is the best way to preserve their healthy fats. When purchasing pumpkin seeds you have to make sure they smell fresh. Organic pumpkin seeds are preferred, as they will not be contaminated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
However, most nuts and seeds have anti-nutrients like phytic acid that can make all the previously discussed important nutrients less bioavailable when you consume them. These nutritional inhibitors can be minimized or eliminated by soaking.
If you plan on consuming seeds or nuts on a regular basis, it would be wise to soak them in water for 7-24 hours to remove the phytic acid. To make them more palatable, you can then dehydrate them in your oven on a low heat setting (no more than 170 degrees F or 75 degrees Celsius) for about 15-20 minutes, or better yet and more cost effectively in a dehydrator.
Pumpkin Seeds – Recommended Daily Intake
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of minerals, with just a quarter of a cup (around 3 tablespoons) containing nearly 20% of the recommended daily intake of zinc and 50% of the daily recommended intake for magnesium and manganese.