Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

While researching on health benefits of pumpkin seeds, I found this small but sweet poem – titled pumpkin seed poem.

One day I found two pumpkin seeds.
I planted one and pulled the weeds.
It sprouted roots and a big, long vine.
A pumpkin grew; I called it mine.
The pumpkin was quite round and fat.
(I really am quite proud of that.)
But there is something I’ll admit
That has me worried just a bit.
I ate the other seed, you see.
Now will it grow inside of me?
(Source: Sarah Chauncey)

Reminds me of childhood, when fall had arrived so had the pumpkin season. Halloween time has abundant supply of pumpkins. Mom made salted tasty pumpkin seed snacks every Halloween, while we carved our jack-o-lanterns or dressed up as Piggy or Casper the friendly ghost or Richard Nixon. I always feared a pumpkin would grow inside my stomach! No pumpkin grew in my stomach, but I would have definitely got some good health benefits of pumpkin seeds though.

We grew up enjoying pumpkin seeds, but never put importance to this superfood and vital nutrient package this little seed carries.  While pumpkins have been long been used by human civilizations, ones discovered in Mexican caves dates 9000 years ago, interest in health benefits of pumpkin seeds has been very recent. Native North Americans are believed to be first to use pumpkin seeds as medicine and treasure its health benefits. Aztec civilizations in South America too consumed the superfood. Pumpkin seed finds its place in traditional medicinal practices.

Roasted Pumpkin Seed (瓜子) are also common delicacy and served during the Chinese New Year.  Pepitas or pumpkin seeds are basic ingredients in some Mexican dishes. Passatempo (“pastime”) or roasted, salted pumpkin seeds are popular in Greece. Pumpkin seed oil is widely used in Central and Eastern Europe as a salad and cooking oil. In Egypt, pumpkin seeds are alternative to western popcorn and widely used.

Some facts about Pumpkin seed

This seed needs no introduction, as we have been munching these seeds for long time. Pumpkin seeds or pepitas are flat dark green/ yellowish brown seeds of pumpkins with our without shells. These seeds have chewy texture and sweet and nutty in taste. Roasted pumpkin seeds as delicious and can be stored for long time. In food markets, pumpkin seeds are available in various forms, raw shelled pumpkin seeds or raw unshelled pumpkin seed or roasted shelled seeds or roasted unshelled seeds.

Nutritional Value of Pumpkin seeds

pumpkin seedFirst thing one would notice about nutritional value of Pumpkin seeds is that they are high on High on calories. About 100 grams of pumpkin seeds provide more than 550 calories, and about 70% of calories are from Fats.  But good thing about fats in pumpkin seeds is that 45% of total fats  in pumpkin seeds are omega-6 fatty acids, which has its own health benefits.

Further one finds all essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins) in pumpkin seeds, which is very good for a single food. Often vegetarian diet is incomplete with various amino acids. It suggest that pumpkin seeds are also high quality protein food. A serving of 200 grams would be sufficient enough to get all daily protein requirements.

This doesn’t end the high nutrient content in pumpkin seeds. Look at content of various vitamins in Pumpkin seeds. It contains Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Thiamin and Vitamin A. It won’t be exaggeration if one compares pumpkin seed with vitamin supplement! Surprisingly nutrition data did not show content of Vitamin E except γ-tocopherol, which was found in various articles on nutritional value of pumpkin seed.

Now here a fact about mineral content of pumpkin seed you should look at. One serving of 100 grams of pumpkin seed is sufficient for you to meet dietary requirement of Magnesium, Iron, Phosphorus and Manganese. Further pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources for zinc and copper. It also contains potassium, calcium and selenium in small quantities. Isn’t pumpkin a pump-mineral!

Superfoods are also rich in other vital nutrients, we call phytonutriends. Pumpkin seeds contain wide variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including the phenolic acids – hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid; and the lignans – pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol. Pumpkins seeds also contain health-supportive phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, sitostanol, and avenasterol.

Roasting damages / alters the composition of nutrients. A research suggest that changes occur in the composition of the fatty acids and micronutrients and some vital micronutrients are lost. Organic Pumpkin seeds are best way to enjoy all nutrients without any contamination and harmful effects. We shall recommend you buy organic raw pumpkin seeds or organic pepitas and roast them at your home rather than purchasing roasted pumpkin seeds from market.

Health benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

When we discuss benefits of pumpkin seeds, it is worthwhile to mention about how love for pumpkin seeds helped a man win lottery jackpot. You may not be lucky always to win lottery jackpot, but benefits of superfood pumpkin seed are no less better than health jackpot. Ancient people were the first to have hooked on this health jackpot. Pumpkin seed finds its medicinal applications in various traditional medicine forms, be it for healthy body, treatment against body pathogen, providing necessary minerals to body. Health benefits are largely attributed to vitamin, mineral and phytochemicals present in abundance in pumpkin seeds. Some of the health benefits of pumpkin seeds are listed below:

Treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia and healthy Prostrate

It is one of the important Pumpkin seed benefits for men. Pumpkin seed are useful in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) – a problem involving non malignant enlargement of prostate gland. Benefits for treatment of BPH are linked to presence of phytochemicals – phytosterols, lignans and zinc in pumpkin seed.

Research has found that phytosterols like beta-sitosterol, sitostanol, and avenasterol along with campesterol, stigmasterol, and campestanol  are found in pumpkin seeds which play important role in treatment of benign prostate enlargement. A study of treating BPH with phytosterols from an extract of pumpkin seeds showed prostate enlargement symptoms were ’significantly improved in the treatment group’. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of zinc in food, and helps reduce prostate problems. Pumpkin seed oil is used in treatment of bladder problems.

One of the reason for enlargement of prostate gland is over stimulation by sex hormones testosterones and DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in male. Pumpkin seed is believed to reduce the impact of these hormones and thereby help prevent prostate gland enlargement in men. Consumption of pumpkin seed can be considered good for men for healthy prostate.

Pumpkin seeds source of Omega 6 Fatty acids

Omega 6 fatty acid in pumpkin seed is good for brain and body repair system. Pumpkin seed helps growth of brain cells and prostaglandins which are required for healthy body and prevent aging.

Power pack of Minerals

Pumpkin seeds are power house of minerals like magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and copper. However it is essential to consume whole pumpkin seed rather than de husked seed to get essential minerals present in shell.

Health benefits of Magnesium include it acting as catalyst in essential body reactions, body temperature regulation, detoxification, formation of healthy bones, infant growth. Zinc though required in small quantity is vital for human body and small deficiency can be disastrous. Health benefits of zinc include improving strength and performance, acting as antioxidant, reproductive well being, increasing immunity, healthy brain function. Iron plays important role in red blood cells and hemoglobin formation, helping energy metabolism, immune system and brain function. Health benefits of copper includes is anti inflammatory action, vital requirement for growth of body cells, enzymatic involvement      in body processes.

Pumpkin seeds improves immunity

Pumpkin seeds contain various essential vitamins and minerals which are essential for immunity. Consumption of pumpkin seeds would help enhance immunity in body and prevent from various disease causing microbes.

Anti-Parasitic action of pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds have been used traditionally in Europe and China for treatment of body parasites. It helps expel parasites like tapeworm and round worms from intestine. It is believed that cucurbitacin present in pumpkin seed and seeds of same family which has deworming property. Health documents at University of Maryland has included Pumpkin seed in list of food which prevents intestinal parasites.

Antioxidant properties of pumpkin seed

Pumpkin seeds act as natural antioxidant. Anti oxidant property of Pumpkin seed can be attributed to presence of Zinc and manganese which act as mineral antioxidant. It also contains other phenolic phytochemiclas which have antioxidant properties. Research is ongoing on antioxidant properties of pumpkin seed and pumpkin seed oil.

Pumpkin seeds for diabetic people

It is found that pumpkin seeds has ability to improve insulin regulation. It is because of this property pumpkin seed extracts and pumpkin seed oil finds its use in treatment of diabetes. Pumpkin seed also reduce oxidative stress which has benefits for diabetic people.

Antimicrobial Benefits of pumpkin seed

Pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seed extract have been valued for their anti bacterial, anti fungal and anti viral properties. Research is ongoing in Lignans in pumpkin seed and their anti microbial benefits.

Pumpkin seeds and cancer prevention

With high anti oxidant property, pumpkin seeds are good for elimination of free radicals and prevention of various forms of cancer. Pumpkin seeds have been researched for prevention of prostate cancer. Lignans and phytosterols in pumpkin seeds help protect body from cancers of lung, breast, ovary and stomach.

Help Prevent Kidney & Gallbladder Stones

Calcium oxalate causes kidney stones and bladder stones. Pumpkin seeds are found to help prevent these stones and improve bladder functioning. Though claims of pumpkin seeds helping dissolve kidney and gallbladders stones are yet still in research.

Pumpkin seeds to reliving depression

Pumpkin seeds are believed to help decrease inflammation in brain and aid in depression. Pumpkin seeds contains amino acids like tryptophan which helps release of hormones which induce sleep and relax mind. Pumpkin seed also contains glutamate which are associated with GABA – an anti stress neurochemical.

Pain Relief and inflammation

Pumpkin seeds have anti inflammatory properties, which helps reduce inflammation and pain. It provides relief for patients of arthritis.

Reducing Cholesterol

Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterol which help in reducing harmful cholesterol in blood. Cholesterol conscious people should be happily consuming pumpkin seeds.

Preventing Osteoporosis

Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, zinc and calcium which are essential for healthy and strong bones. Zinc helps in prevention of osteoporosis. One cup of pumpkin seeds (with husk) provides sufficient zinc to meet daily dietary requirement of an adult and thus prevent osteoporosis along with other health benefits.

Smooth skin and shiny hair

Omega 6 fatty acid and zinc in pumpkin seeds prevents aging of skin and keeps skin smooth and shiny hair. Studies have showed that acne are reduced due to various components of pumpkin seeds. Vitamin B and other minerals help promote hair growth. Adding pumpkin seeds to daily diet translates into healthy hair and skin.

Pumpkin seeds also help prevent hair loss associated with dihydrotestosterone (DHT) hormone in male. DHT is known to increase hair loss and baldness in men. Effect of DHT is nullified by consumption of pumpkin seeds.

Improve Digestion

Pumpkin seeds with its anti microbial, anti inflammatory and antioxidant property protects our digestive system. Adding pumpkin seed to food, makes it easier to digest and healthy metabolism.

Atherosclerosis

Pumpkin seeds are rich source of antioxidant and omega 6 fatty acids and research has shown that it has antiatherogenic activities.

Enhancing Libido

Pumpkin seeds belong to category of food which enhances libido and helps sexual health. Zinc is considered to be a sex enhancing mineral and is found in abundance in pumpkin seed. It also manages male sex hormone testosterone.

Pumpkin seeds are being promoted as ‘Viagra for Women‘ in supermarkets. Such claims of enhancing potency, sex drive and fertility in women are yet to be researched. However it makes no harm for you to consume pumpkin seeds for enhancing libido, if not there are other benefits of pumpkin seeds you would definitely enjoy.

Helpful during pregnancy

Pumpkin seeds are rich sources of Vitamin K which is essential for blood clotting and other Vitamin B which are essential for growth of baby. Zinc and Magnesium are also required for normal baby growth, development of bones and muscles and nervous system. Pumpkin seeds can complement the Iron supplements taken during pregnancy. In summary, benefits of pumpkin seed for pregnant women are many.

Pepitas and Weight Gain

Pumpkin seeds are not for those wanting to reduce weight. Calorific value of pumpkin seed is very high, as against the various nutrients it provides. However, it is an excellent food source for increasing your weight.

So, don’t underestimate the power of these small seeds. Consuming pumpkin seeds are definitely healthy for body. Over consumption can be avoided for high calories added to body.

Care to be taken:  Though pumpkin seed is not considered commonly allergenic food or contain oxalates or purines which are harmful, individual care can be taken before consumption of pumpkin seeds. Care should also be taken storage of pumpkin seeds, oil in pumpkin seed may make it rancid. Store in air tight container and refrigerate.

Apart from health benefits of pumpkin seeds, there are other benefits of pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds can be used as tool for teaching your kids. Read about Pumpkin seed multiplicationPumpkin Seed craft is popular recreation and art and good for people people with creative mind.

Start snacking on pumpkin seeds for a healthy life. Many ways you can enjoy this wonderful superfood

  • Garnish salads and vegetables with pumpkin seeds.
  • Make pumpkin seed chutney / mixture by grinding pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley and cilantro leaves, further adding olive oil and lemon juice
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds are anytime snack
  • Adding pumpkin seed to your oatmeal cookie

Next time we shall post you more healthy recipes of pumpkin seeds. Thats all for health benefits of pumpkin seeds. Eat and explore more health benefits for yourselves.

Image Credits: Wikimedia - sei, Pixabay

Leave a Reply