If we have to describe pumpkin seeds in one word, it would be “superfood.” Pepitas are low-calorie, high-nutritive, easily accessible and inexpensive food with so many health benefits that it takes several pages to write about them. But don’t worry; we’ve made it a 7-minute read.
Pumpkin seeds nutritional value
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source (20% of the Daily Value – DV – and higher) of protein, dietary fiber, niacin (vitamin B3), iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. The seeds are a good source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate (vitamin B9), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), sodium and potassium. Pepitas have 75% of fat.
Pumpkin seeds are naturally gluten-free.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Percent Daily Value (%DV) is a guide to the nutrients in one serving of food. For example, 40% for protein means that one serving provides 40% of the protein you need each day. It helps you make informed food choices. DVs are based on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy adults.
1. Pumpkin seeds significantly improve men’s health
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc. Zinc supports normal growth and development for all ages because it is required for the function of over 300 enzymes. Zinc helps your body use carbohydrates, protein and fat and strengthens the immune system. Zinc is the mineral that essential for the men’s health.
The daily value for zinc is 15mg. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of this nutrient. A serving of 100g of pumpkin seeds provides 80% daily value of it, making pepitas one of the best sources of zinc.
- Zinc improves testosterone and sperm production: In the body, the high contents of zinc are found in the brain, muscle, bones, kidney, and liver, with the highest concentrations in the prostate and parts of the eye. But semen is particularly rich in zinc. Zinc is necessary for the production of healthy, abundant, and potent sperm.
- Pumpkin seeds trigger production of testosterone: Pepitas are rich in zinc and amino acids that trigger production of sex hormones. And with greater levels of testosterone comes increased sperm production.
- Pumpkin seeds help improve prostate health: Zinc is a key factor in prostate gland function and reproductive organ growth. Published in 2008 in the “Urology” journal, a randomized, placebo-controlled study treated 476 patients with lower urinary tract symptoms and benign prostatic hyperplasia with pumpkin seeds. The results showed an improvement of 6.8 points, which was 1.2 points over the placebo group (the results of that size is rarely achieved).
2. Pumpkin seeds have anti-diabetic effects
The glycemic index represents the rise in a person’s blood sugar level two hours after consumption of a food. The GI is a number associated with the carbohydrates in a particular type of food that indicates the effect of these carbohydrates on a person’s blood glucose (blood sugar) level.
- Foods with carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream tend to have a high GI
- Foods with carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, tend to have a low GI. A lower glycemic response usually equates to a lower insulin demand and can improve long-term blood glucose control and blood lipids.
An ounce (28g or two tablespoons) of raw pumpkin seeds has only 4 grams of carbs. With their very high protein content, fiber and healthy fats, carbohydrates are really not figuring into pumpkin seeds nutrition significantly. The pepitas nutritional profile makes raw pumpkin seeds the food with extremely low glycemic index of 10 that has a negligible glycemic load.
3. Pumpkin seeds can increase hemoglobin level and red blood cells production
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of dietary iron: a serving of 100g of pepitas has 8mg of iron and provides 62% daily value of it. A human male of average height has about 4 grams of iron in his body (of which three quarters is in hemoglobin), a female about 3.5 grams.
Iron is involved in numerous biological processes; it also helps nails and hair to grow. In our body, it is the most important transition metal. The color of blood is due to hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein. Haemoglobin is responsible for the transport and storage of oxygen, as well as the transfer of electrons. It is also the metal at the active site of many important redox enzymes dealing with cellular respiration. This iron is distributed throughout the body in hemoglobin, tissues, muscles, bone marrow, blood proteins, and enzymes.
4. Pumpkin seeds are enormously rich in phosphorus
Pumpkin seeds are the number one plant source of phosphorus: they provide 168% DV of it (the daily value for phosphorus is 1000mg).
Phosphorus plays a major role in the structural framework of DNA and RNA. Living cells use phosphate to transport cellular energy with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), necessary for every cellular process that uses energy. ATP is also important for phosphorylation, a key regulatory event in cells. Thanks to that fact, pumpkin seeds help provide your every cell with energy as ATP.
5. Pumpkin seeds help improve phospholipids synthesis
Every living cell is encased in a membrane that separates it from its surroundings. Phospholipids are the main structural components of all cellular membranes.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent dietary source of tryptophan. Through a chain of biochemical reactions, this amino acid has a positive effect on sleep, anxiety, mood, and appetite. It increases the serotonin level in the brain, which lifts your mood. For mild depression, pepitas can be an effective natural treatment.
7. Pumpkin seeds trigger “happy” hormone production
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and biochemical precursor for serotonin. It cannot be produced in our body and must be part of our daily diet. If you are in a good mood, you’ve got serotonin to thank; if not – you’ve got serotonin to blame. The major amount of serotonin exists in the intestine, and is governed by your state of hunger. Feel happier after lunch? That’s why.
The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight (1.8mg per pound). So, a person weighing 70kg (about 154 pounds) should consume approximately 280mg of tryptophan per day. Pumpkin seeds are one of the foods highest in tryptophan – 576mg of tryptophan per 100g (206% DV), or 161mg of tryptophan per ounce (28g) (58% DV).
One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which participates in a wide range of vitally important 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, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), an estimated 57% of Americans are deficient in this important mineral.
9. Pumpkin seeds improve digestion
Pumpkin seeds are packed with fiber: 18 grams per 100 grams of pepitas, which is 72% of Daily Value (DV). Due to that fact pumpkin seeds facilitate regular bowel movements, prevent constipation and reduce the risk of haemorrhoids. On the other hand, eating too many pepitas can cause digestive problems.
10. Pumpkin seeds for weight loss
Just two words: very good!
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a healthy daily serving is approximately 2 tablespoons of unshelled roasted pumpkin seeds (28 grams) that contain: 125 calories, 15g of total carbs (no sugar), 5g of fiber, and 5g of protein.
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are not only nutritious, but also tasty, having a sweet and chewy texture. Roasted pepitas are a nutritional snack ready to eat from the pack, available year-round. Pumpkin seeds are a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Marinated and roasted, they are an autumn seasonal snack in the United States. In Latin America pepitas are typically salted and sometimes spiced after roasting. However, if want to preserve the healthy fats present in pepitas, pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw.
Pumpkin seed oil is mainly used as a salad dressing. It has an intense nutty taste and is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. The oil is also used for desserts, giving ordinary vanilla ice cream a nutty taste. It is considered a real delicacy in Austria and Slovenia, and a few drops are added to pumpkin soup and other local dishes. Using it as cooking oil, however, destroys its essential fatty acids.
If you choose to buy pumpkin 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.
Surprising Facts about Pumpkin seeds
- Pumpkin seeds were used by indigenous people of North America in traditional medicine to expel tapeworms and other intestinal parasites. This led to the seeds being listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia as an antiparasitic from 1863 until 1936.
- In North America, squash was domesticated first about 8,000–10,000 years ago, with maize second, followed by beans, all becoming part of the Three Sisters agricultural system. The Three Sisters are the three main agricultural crops of various Native American groups: winter squash, maize (corn), and beans. The Iroquois, among others, used these “Three Sisters” as trade goods.
Don’t underestimate these so ordinary seeds!