Why Are Pumpkin Seeds Good for You?
Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest seeds you can eat with many nutritional benefits. They make an extremely healthy snack and despite their high calories and fat content, eating pumpkin seeds can actually help you lose weight.
Here’s why raw pumpkin seeds are good for you with their high protein, fiber and healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and special compounds for balancing hormones and preventing hair loss.
Pumpkin Seeds Calories
Many people are concerned with the amount of calories in pumpkin seeds so it’s worth addressing this topic first.
Nutritional analysis shows one ounce of pumpkin seeds contains around 125 calories and a full cup (a very difficult amount to eat given how filling pumpkin seeds are) has 285 calories.
The calories found in pumpkin seeds come primarily from the polyunsaturated fats (2.5 g), monounsaturated fats (1.7 g) and saturated fats (1 g) per ounce of the fresh seeds.
Although pumpkin seeds are far from a low-calorie food, they are extremely filling, full of nutrition and actually make an ideal replacement for junk food snacks. This is due to their high protein and fiber, very low carbs and the way they satisfy hunger and stabilize blood sugar.
It’s important not to be afraid of the calories in healthy and satisfying foods like pumpkin seeds. Unlike sugary junk foods, you’ll find it difficult to eat them in large amounts, they’ll keep hunger at bay for much longer and their calories are more than worth it for how good they are for you.
Healthy Fats in Pumpkin Seeds
Raw pumpkin seeds contain omega-6 linoleic acid, omega-9 oleic acid and saturated stearic and palmitic fatty acids. They also have a small amount of omega-3 alpha linolenic acid. In total, an ounce of pumpkin seeds has 5.4 g of fat while a full cup contains 12.4 grams according to nutritional data.
It’s best to have your pumpkin seeds raw as the high temperatures used in roasting may damage polyunsaturated linoleic acid in particular. This is also why the processed polyunsaturated cooking oils that most people use are now being shown to be damaging to your health. Heat stable avocado oil is a much healthier alternative.
The monounsaturated oleic acid found in pumpkin seeds is the same healthy fat found in olive oil and avocado and part of what makes pumpkin seeds good for you. Oleic acid is considered beneficial for raising good HDL cholesterol whilst lowering problematic LDL cholesterol and well worth having in your diet.
The smaller amounts of saturated fats in pumpkin seeds are also important nutritionally. They are used to maintain proper cellular function, for nutrient transportation and assimilation and to help create vital hormones like testosterone.
Pumpkin Seed Protein Levels
Pumpkin seeds have one of the highest protein content of any nut or seed with more than 5 g of protein per ounce (28 g) and 12 g per cup. That makes them almost 20% protein and a great vegetarian source of essential amino acids for muscle building and repair.
The seeds of pumpkins are also particularly high in the amino acid tryptophan which is converted to the neurotransmitter serotonin in your body.
A good dietary intake of tryptophan can be beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing mood and improving sleep. Conversely, low levels of tryptophan are associated with difficulty coping with stress, problems getting to sleep and even serious depression.
Low Carbohydrate Snack
Particularly low in carbohydrates with only 4 g per ounce, pumpkin seeds make a great high protein, low carb snack. They also have a very low glycemic index and are a useful snacking option for those looking to lose weight by limiting their carbohydrate intake.
The green pumpkin seeds without the shells have around 1 g of dietary fiber per ounce, predominantly insoluble fiber for helping regular bowel movements.
The unshelled pumpkin seeds straight from the pumpkin would have a much higher fiber content. These can be scrapped straight from the pumpkin and lightly fried in a little coconut oil and spices. This softens up the shells and makes for a great tasting snack that’s full of healthy fiber
High in Minerals
The mineral content of pumpkin seeds is especially rich with high levels of magnesium and zinc in particular. They also contain good amounts of other minerals like manganese, iron, copper and phosphorus.
Just a quarter of a cup of pumpkin seeds has close to half the recommended daily intake of magnesium (though this is set too low and more is advisable). Magnesium is very important for energy metabolism, maintaining healthy muscle and nerve function and many other vital cellular processes. Despite this, many people on a standard supermarket food diet are lacking in this essential mineral as it is rarely found in processed foods.
Zinc is another nutrient that many of us are lacking in. It is involved building immunity, repairing the skin and maintaining a healthy sex drive. The zinc in pumpkin seeds is particularly beneficial for men as it helps protect the prostate and is needed for testosterone production.
Vitamins in Raw Pumpkin Seeds
A handful of pumpkin seeds contains a mixture of B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin C and relatively high levels of vitamin E. Gamma-tocopherol, considered to be the most potent antioxidant form, makes up a good percentage of this vitamin E and is another reason why pumpkin seeds are good for your heart.
It’s best to get your pumpkin seeds raw if you value their nutritional properties. Vitamins like vitamin E and C as well as other nutrients can be damaged by roasting. Organic is also recommended, not just to avoid pesticides but also due to the often higher mineral content of organically grown produce.
With this in mind I like these American grown and organic raw pumpkin seeds. They have a delicious nutty flavor and just a small handful in the afternoon will keep you going until dinner.
3 Extra Nutrients in Pumpkin Seeds
There are several other unusual nutritional properties that make pumpkin seeds healthy.
The first is a mild steroidal compound called delta-7-sterine that specifically competes with the powerful hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) at cell receptor sites in your body. Excess DHT is strongly implicated in both hair loss and prostate enlargement in men but delta-7-sterine is believed to help reduce DHT at both prostate cells and hair follicles.
Eating pumpkin seeds regularly is a good way to get delta-7-sterine into the diet, however concentrated pumpkin seed oil is an even better source and regular use is reported to be beneficial for both prostate problems and reducing hair loss.
The phytosterol content of pumpkin seeds is quite high at around 260 mg per 100 g. These phytosterols include beta-sitosterol, linked to better immunity and cardiovascular health and often used for treating an enlarged prostate gland in men. Phytosterols like beta-sitosterol are also known to help decrease LDL cholesterol levels.
Raw pumpkin seeds have additionally been found to be a good source of the eye antioxidant lutein that protects the macular region of your eye from UV and blue light damage. Along with the gamma-tocopherol, vitamin C and zinc they contain, lutein helps boost pumpkin seeds antioxidant credentials and is just another reason why they are so good for your health.
Raw Pumpkin Seeds as a Healthy Snack
With their high levels of protein, beneficial fats, fiber content, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients there’s no doubt that pumpkin seeds are good for you. Try swapping high carbohydrate snacks made from grains for a handful of pumpkin seeds and see the difference it can make to both you health and your waistline.
If you’d like to try them for an afternoon snack at home or at the office then these organic and USA grown pumpkin seeds have very positive reviews.
Have you tried snacking on raw pumpkin seeds before or eaten them in homemade cooking? I’d be interested to hear what you thought of how filling they are and how they taste.
Next up is just how all of the nutrition in pumpkin seeds can benefit your health in some surprising ways.
Photo 1 credit with thanks: Nicholas Noyes / Photo 2 credit with thanks: Nicholas Noyes