Some Powerful Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
by Laura Ligos, The Sassy Dietitian
Laura Ligos, RDN, CSSD
Once there is a slight chill in the air everyone starts going crazy over pumpkin season. While pumpkin is a delicious squash and goes well in lattes, breads and pies, did you know that the seeds of pumpkins are also incredibly nutritious? That’s right; if you still have any pumpkins lying around don’t go throwing them out just yet.
Pumpkin seeds often get overlooked, as most people tend to reach for sunflower seeds, flax seeds or even chia seeds. While all of those seeds are incredibly nutritious, the pumpkin seed may actually be the unsung hero of the seed category. A one-ounce portion (about ¼ cup) clocks in with around 150 calories, 8 to 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. With that amount of protein and fiber in a portion it will be sure to fill you up and hold you over no matter if you enjoy them in a snack or as part of a nutritious meal.
Now that we have unofficially declared the pumpkin seed as the unsung hero of seeds, let’s dive into a few more of the health benefits that pumpkin seeds pack.
Fat was demonized for so long that many people feared adding fat back to their diet. The good news is we know that fat is an important component of a healthy diet. Pumpkin seeds contain what are known as unsaturated fats, including some omega-3s, which can be supportive of a healthy heart and preventative against heart disease. Omega 3s can also help to reduce overall inflammation and be a great source of plant-based healthy fats.
Speaking of plant-based nutrition, pumpkin seeds have 8-10 grams of protein in a one-ounce portion (about ¼ cup). It can be hard to get enough protein in a day because it usually involves preparation. Having something that is so convenient like a seed that you can add to a smoothie, oatmeal bowl, or even a salad is great. Protein helps keep your full longer, supports a healthy blood sugar balance and in turn supports those hormones. Protein is also helpful in supporting your muscles and aiding in recovery so you can stay active to help your mind and body.
One serving of pumpkin seeds has about 37% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake), which is a lot considering most of us, do not get enough magnesium in our diets to begin with. Magnesium is needed for over 600 processes in the body so it’s imperative to our health and if prioritized can be achieved through a healthy diet. Some of the health benefits of achieving adequate magnesium include: managing blood pressure, preventing type 2 diabetes and controlling blood sugar levels in the body, reducing heart disease risk and so much more. Magnesium may also be helpful during your cycle to reduce cramps and aid in sleep, which of course sounds good for us all, sign us up!
Pumpkin seeds have about 14% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) for Zinc for adults. This is a great plant-based option for zinc and can be beneficial especially for those trying to conceive or who are already pregnant. Adequate zinc levels have been shown to improve health outcomes in pregnancy and many women have inadequate levels. Finding quick and easy sources of zinc (like pumpkin seeds) can help to improve the levels of zinc in our bodies.
Say what? Yes, pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, which means they help to reduce inflammation and protect the body from free radicals that can damage the body’s cells. This damage can happen for many reasons and not totally avoidable so it’s great to have a diet rich in antioxidants to give the body a hand in fighting off said damage and reducing inflammation. Pumpkin seeds have omega 3s like we mentioned that reduce inflammation but they are also full of carotenoids and vitamin E both of which have antioxidant properties.
Balance Blood Sugars
Having healthy blood sugar levels is known to be helpful in the prevention and management of diabetes but it is also great for overall energy, sleep and your hormones. Ever had that 2pm slump at work and want to take a nap? That’s likely your blood sugar going on a roller coaster ride. Eating a diet rich in protein, healthy fats and fiber can help with maintaining a healthy blood sugar. Pumpkin seeds happen to be full of protein, fat and fiber so next time you need an idea on how to balance a meal or snack, consider adding pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds contain about 5g of fiber for every one-ounce serving. In general it is recommend that the average adult consume 25-40 grams of fiber daily so this is a great place to start. Fiber has been known to help keep you regular and promote a healthy heart. Fiber can also help keep you full longer which allows you to feel more satisfied with your meals and snacks.
Now that you know some of the health benefits of pumpkin seeds do you see why it’s the unsung hero of the seed family? Pumpkin seeds are used in MONA’s daily seed packs in the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle (the follicular phase). You can enjoy them on their own as a snack or add to other food items like oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies or salads.