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Why was the pumpkin left feeling sad? Because he felt empty inside!

On that note, lets dive into pumpkin, and the nutrient-dense seed it contains – the pumpkin seed! 

Pumpkin is a staple in every household come Thanksgiving. But often the valuable seeds found inside are scooped out and thrown away.  

Pumpkins are a large fruit variety that are characterized by bright orange flesh. They are also known as pepitas. How cute! 

Pumpkin seeds, as the name suggests, are the edible seeds found within the pumpkin fruit. They resemble small, flat, and oval seeds coated by a fibrous white husk. They can be consumed both without or with the husk, raw or toasted, or they can even be ground up into a powder or pressed into pumpkin seed oil. 

A Little Bit of History… 

Pumpkin seeds, or Pepitas as they are called in Spanish (meaning the little seed of the squash), draw their origin from The Americas: North America, Central America, and South America (Reilley, 2015). Pumpkin was originally cultivated by Native Americans, who valued pumpkin seeds for their medicinal and nutritious properties.  

Even The Aztecs cherished Pepitas and The Mayans used the entire pumpkinOriginally, only the flesh was used for cooking. The Mayans incorporated pumpkin into sauces, and the pumpkin seeds were hulled, toasted, then ground up into a sauce.  

There are records showing that when The Spaniards came to Yucatán, they were served corn tortillas with pumpkin seed sauce, a dish The Mayans revered as “food for the lords” (Reilley, 2015). This visit spread pumpkin to the rest of the world.  

On The Day of The Dead, Calabaza en Tacha is prepared (Reilley, 2015). The name of the dish translates to “candied pumpkin” and it is essentially pumpkin with cane sugar. Unrefined cane sugar is added to a pot containing pumpkin. This is reduced to a dark syrup, after which guava and cinnamon sticks are added. The dessert that forms is a symbol of Mexico’s history and autumn harvest. 

The 12 reasons Pumpkin Seeds are good for you!

  1. Lowers Risk for Cancer

Pumpkin seeds are an awesome plant-based source of the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid and polyunsaturated essential fatty acid linoleic acid.

Oleic acid, also called the omega-9 fatty acid, is usually present in animal and plant fats. In some studies, oleic acid has been shown to reduce CRP –which is an inflammatory factor in our body (Yoneyama et al. 2007). Oleic acid has even been shown to reduce the risk of cancer by decreasing the expression of an oncogene (Menendez & Lupu, 2009).

2.  Balances Blood Sugar

Whole pumpkin seeds contain a lot of fiber, thanks to their outer husk. Eating pumpkin seeds whole with the shell makes it easy to reach the daily recommended fiber intake of 25-30g from food. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found only in plant foods.

3. Helps Relieve Post-Menopausal symptoms

Women who consumed pumpkin seed oil experienced a smaller percent of hot flashes, a common symptom of menopause (Gossell-Williams et al. 2011). This is because pumpkin seed oil is rich in phytoestrogens, which mimic the action of estrogen. As women age, their levels of estrogen decline, attributing to many of the symptoms associated with menopause.

4. Improves Sleep

Pumpkin seeds are renowned for the fact that they are rich in zinc, which is contained in the seed itself. Zinc is important for many biological processes in the body, including cell division, immunity, and even sleep! Pumpkin seeds contain 69% of our daily value of Zinc, making them a powerful plant-based source.

5. Lowers Cholesterol

As you know by now, pumpkin seeds are rich in Fiber. Fiber is important for keeping our cholesterol levels in check. Eating a high fiber diet, such as adhering to a plant-based diet, can improve “bad” cholesterol levels in our blood. This is because soluble fiber can clear cholesterol from the body. It does so by preventing the reabsorption of bile acids in our small intestine, and instead it excretes them (Gunness & Gidley, 2010). This lowers cholesterol in our body because cholesterol is used to make bile salts!

6. Heart Healthy

While Linoleic acid has awesome properties too. Linoleic acid, also called the omega-6 fatty acid, is usually found in plant oils such as flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and pumpkin seed oil. Increasing consumption of Linoleic acid has been shown to reduce the event of cardiovascular events and even decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease (Pan et al. 2012).

This is because Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fat, which unlike saturated fats, does not clog our arteries.

7. Nutrient Dense

Pumpkin seeds are not only rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats… They are rich in vitamins and minerals too! They contain 90% of our daily value of Vitamin K, a vitamin that is required to make the clotting factors in our blood. They also contain a large amount of phosphorus and manganese. 162% of our daily value and 208% of our daily value. Both of these values are double the recommended value. Phosphorus is required for proper bone formation along with Manganese.

8. Nocturia

Nocturia is defined as having the urge to pee in the middle of the night. One study showed that pumpkin seeds could improve bladder function. Patients with hyperactive bladders were given pumpkin seed oil in one study for 6-12 weeks (Nishimura et al. 2014). The study concluded that pumpkin seed oil helped alleviate urinary dysfunction in patients with overreactive bladders.

9. Reduce Inflammation

Pumpkin seeds contain a great deal of antioxidants, such as carotenoids, which are yellow, red, and orange plant pigments. One study showed that these antioxidants eliminate free radicals and inhibit lipoxygenase, an enzyme in our body that breaks down polyunsaturated fatty acids into inflammatory factors (Xanthopoulou et al. 2009).

10. Can Improve Sleep

Pumpkin seeds are also high in the mineral magnesium. An adequate intake of magnesium has been shown to improve sleep quality, and Magnesium is essential for sleep regulation (Rude et al. 2009).

11. Supports Prostate

Pumpkin seed oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, sterols, and tocopherols, all of which have a positive effect on the prostate (Ramak & Mahboubi, 2019). Pumpkin seed oil works as a tonic and relaxes the bladder’s sphincter and inhibits inflammatory factors. All of which helps to decrease the symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

12. Helps Maintain Healthy Bones

Pumpkin seeds are a great plant source of magnesium, a mineral that is need for many biological processes in our body to occur. Magnesium supports bone health since it is essential not only for absorption of calcium, but also for its metabolism. One study showed that there was even bone loss and a decrease in bone growth when magnesium deficiency occurred (Rude et al. 2009).

Nutrient Profile

The following nutritional information is for one cup of pumpkin seeds (Self, n.d.).

Vitamins

Vitamin K: 90% of our daily value

Pumpkin seeds contain 90% of our daily value of Vitamin K, a vitamin important for blood-clotting.

Minerals

Iron: 115% of our daily value

Magnesium: 185% of our daily value

Phosphorus: 162% of our daily value

Zinc: 69% of our daily value

Copper: 96% of our daily value

Manganese: 208% of our daily value

Macronutrients:

Carbohydrates: 24.6 g

Protein: 33.9 g

Fat: 63.3 g

Pumpkin Seed Recipe Ideas 

Pumpkin seeds are an important plant-based source of healthy fats, proteins, and vitamins and minerals. If you are new to cooking with pumpkin seeds, do not fret! They can be used as a topping to add crunch to salads or eaten as a snack. The more elaborate ways to cook pumpkin seeds include boiling them, frying them on a skillet, and roasting them in the oven.

Some people consume pumpkin seed oil, which is expelled from the raw pumpkin seeds. This oil is loaded with healthy fats and nutrients as well.

Here are just a few recipe ideas to help you get started with incorporating pumpkin seeds into your diet!  

These avocado and pumpkin seed sweet potatoes are so darn good! They are also a recipe curated by us here at Good Food For Good:  

https://goodfoodforgood.ca/2019/01/01/pumpkin-seeds-stuffed-sweet-potato/  

This pumpkin seed Alfredo muesli by Vegan Richa is perfect for you if you are craving a creamy fix. It uses pumpkin seeds instead of cashews to simulate real Alfredo! 

https://www.veganricha.com/2016/06/pumpkin-seed-alfredo-nut-free-vegan-alfredo.html 

If you are looking for a sweet vegan take, try this pumpkin bread topped with pumpkin seeds. It can be the perfect dessert or even breakfast meal – eat it however you like! 

https://lovingitvegan.com/vegan-pumpkin-bread/ 

Have fun cooking!

Author: Valerie Ivanova Food Scientist and Nutritionist | Good Food for Good Intern 

References: 

  1. Chollet, D., Franken, P., Raffin, Y., Henrotte, J. G., Widmer, J., Malafosse, A., & Tafti, M. (2001). Magnesium involvement in sleep: genetic and nutritional models. Behav Genet, 31(5), 413-425. 
  2. Gossell-Williams, M., Hyde, C., Hunter, T., Simms-Stewart, D., Fletcher, H., McGrowder, D., & Walters, C. A. (2011). Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study. Climacteric, 14(5), 558-564. doi:10.3109/13697137.2011.563882
  3. Gunness, P., & Gidley, M. J. (2010). Mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-lowering properties of soluble dietary fibre polysaccharides. Food Funct, 1(2), 149-155. doi:10.1039/c0fo00080a
  4. Menendez, J. A., & Lupu, R. (2006). Mediterranean dietary traditions for the molecular treatment of human cancer: anti-oncogenic actions of the main olive oil’s monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid (18:1n-9). Curr Pharm Biotechnol, 7(6), 495-502. 
  5. Nishimura, M., Ohkawara, T., Sato, H., Takeda, H., & Nishihira, J. (2014). Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted From Cucurbita maxima Improves Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder.?Journal of traditional and complementary medicine,?4(1), 72–74. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.124355 
  6. Pan, A., Chen, M., Chowdhury, R., Wu, J. H., Sun, Q., Campos, H., … Hu, F. B. (2012). ?-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.?The American journal of clinical nutrition,?96(6), 1262–1273. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.044040 
  7. Pumpkin. (2008, September 22). Retrieved from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pumpkin 
  8. Ramak, P., & Mahboubi, M. (2019). The beneficial effects of Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) seed oil for health condition of men. Food Reviews International, 35(2), 166-176. Retrieved from https://www.scopus.com/inward/record.uri?eid=2-s2.0-85060553977&doi=10.1080%2f87559129.2018.1482496&partnerID=40&md5=9b9b049dfda634f47cff306727f88d76. doi:10.1080/87559129.2018.1482496 
  9. Rude, R. K., Singer, F. R., & Gruber, H. E. (2009). Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. J Am Coll Nutr, 28(2), 131-141. 
  10. Self. “Seeds, pumpkin and squash seed kernels, dried [pepitas]”. Retrieved May 7, 2019, from https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3066/2 
  11. Xanthopoulou, M. N., Nomikos, T., Fragopoulou, E., & Antonopoulou, S. (2009). Antioxidant and lipoxygenase inhibitory activities of pumpkin seed extracts. Food Research International, 42(5-6), 641-646. Retrieved from https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2009.02.003. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2009.02.003 
  12. Yoneyama, S., Miura, K., Sasaki, S., Yoshita, K., Morikawa, Y., Ishizaki, M., . . . Nakagawa, H. (2007). Dietary intake of fatty acids and serum C-reactive protein in Japanese. J Epidemiol, 17(3), 86-92. 

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