Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk (often called the “shell”), although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells. Pumpkin seeds have a malleable, chewy texture and a subtly sweet, nutty flavor.
Pumpkins, and their seeds, are native to the Americas, and indigenous species are found across North America, South America, and Central America.
Pumpkin seeds were a celebrated food among many Native American tribes, who treasured them both for their dietary and medicinal properties. In South America, the popularity of pumpkin seeds has been traced at least as far back as the Aztec cultures of 1300-1500 AD
Health benefits of pumpkin seeds
- Pumpkin seeds help protect against cancer
Because oxidative stress is known to play a role in the development of some cancers, and pumpkin seeds are unique in their composition of antioxidant nutrients, it’s not surprising to find some preliminary evidence of decreased cancer risk in association with pumpkin seed intake.
Also, pumpkin seed is a good source of carotenoids and vitamin E which can help to scavenge ‘free radicals’ which can damage cells. One study, in particular, found that pumpkin seeds were associated with a significantly reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, compared to no consumption, and a second study showed that they may also help protect premenopausal women too. In addition, antioxidants help fend off premature aging and chronic diseases.
- Can help reduces blood sugar level.
Several studies have found that supplementing the diet with pumpkin juice or seed powder reduced blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
The high magnesium content of pumpkin seeds may be responsible for its positive effect on diabetes.
An observational study involving over 127,000 men and women found that diets rich in magnesium were associated with a 33 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes in men and a 34 percent lower risk in women
- Improve sperm quality
Research shows that both pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil help to protect prostate health. Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as a special source of the mineral zinc, and the World Health Organization recommends their consumption as a good way of obtaining this nutrient. Zinc content in the seeds may also support male fertility by improving sperm quality.
- Pumpkin seed is loaded with beneficial fats.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. Only a small fraction of ALA gets converted into the important DHA and EPA omega-3s, which are found in fatty fish like salmon. However, ALA benefits include protecting against heart disease, reducing the risk of artery hardening, and fighting inflammation.
- It helps in balancing hormone
It contains a great amount of Zinc for progesterone production, a key element released during the second phase of the menstrual cycle.
- It helps to improve the quality of sleep
If you find it difficult to get some shut-eye at night, then pumpkin seeds may come to your rescue. The seeds are a natural source of tryptophan that promotes sound sleep. Magnesium found in pumpkin seeds also helps to tackle the problem of insomnia.
How to Select and Store
Pumpkin seeds are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the pumpkin seeds are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure the seeds’ maximal freshness.
We recommend that you purchase certified organic raw pumpkin seeds and then light-roast them yourself. By purchasing organic, you will avoid unnecessary exposure to potential contaminants.
How To Consume Pumpkin Seeds
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of mixed green salads.
- Grind pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley, and cilantro leaves.
- Mix with olive oil and lemon juice for a tasty salad dressing.
- Add chopped pumpkin seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal.
- Add pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal.
- Pumpkin seed butter can be whipped into smoothies, swirled into yogurt, drizzled over fruit, or used as the base for energy bars or balls