Pumpkin Seeds Are Good for You: 11 Nutritional Health Benefits
All pumpkins have edible seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are tiny packages filled with vital nutrients.
You can get a significant quantity of magnesium, zinc and good fats into your body by eating a small amount of pumpkin seeds.
That translates into health benefits like improved cardiovascular and prostate health.
In this article we look at the leading 11 health benefits of pumpkin seeds that are based on scientific research.
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11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Below are the leading 11 evidence-based health benefits of pumpkin seeds:
1. Pumpkin Seeds Are Nutrient Rich
One ounce (28.3 grams) of pumpkin seeds contains about 150 calories, with 13 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein.
However, contrary to popular belief, scientists are finding that eating cholesterol doesn’t necessarily put your cardiovascular health at risk (6).
The shell of the pumpkin seed is white while the de-shelled seed is green as seen below.
One ounce of pumpkin seeds also contains other important nutrients, such as:
Fat: 13 grams
One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fats and 5.6 grams of polyunsaturated fats.
Vitamin K: 1.3 mcg, or 18% of the RDI
Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and bone strength. Deficiencies in this vitamin can increase your risk for osteoporosis and coronary artery disease (7).
Magnesium: 156 mg, or 37% of the RDI.
Magnesium is a nutrient that can help control blood pressure, regulate nerve and muscle function and even help create cells.
Many people don’t get enough magnesium in their diets.
Iron: 2.29 mg, or 23% of the RDI.
Iron helps transport oxygen from the respiratory system to all of the organs in the body via the blood.
It is also responsible for aiding in the creation of connective tissue and certain hormones (8).
Zinc: 2.17 mg, or 14% of the RDI.
Zinc helps the body fight off germs. It is also responsible for helping children develop properly. It is necessary for making proteins and DNA in the body (9).
Potassium: 223 mg, or 19% of the RDI.
Potassium can help control blood pressure. It can also help to block the effects of sodium on blood pressure in some people (10).
The antioxidants and folate found in potassium also have health benefits.
Pumpkin seeds are low in sugar and salt unless those seasonings are added during processing.
2. Pumpkin Seeds Are Antioxidant Rich
Antioxidants in pumpkin seeds can help combat free radicals.
Molecules in the pumpkin seed oil are considered to have scavenging properties, attracting molecules with an extra electron that might otherwise latch onto other molecules in the body, causing damage (11).
Pumpkin seeds contain about 50 percent oil that contains vitamin E (12).
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps stabilize free radicals.
Pumpkin seeds also contain carotenoids (15).
These antioxidants can lower your risk of developing diseases like some cancers and protect against eye disease.
Blue light can damage cells in the eyes. Some carotenoids absorb this light, preventing it from causing injury (16).
Researchers who administered pumpkin seed oil to rats with arthritis found that the oil helped with inflammation.
In addition, there are no side effects associated with pumpkin seed oil (17).
Researchers believe that the abundance of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds is largely accountable for their positive health benefits.
3. Pumpkin Seeds Boost Prostate and Bladder Health
The nutrients found in pumpkin seeds can help people with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) experience fewer symptoms and improve their quality of life.
In patients with BPH, an enlarged prostate gland can cause problems with urine flow and emptying the bladder (18).
Studies found that consuming extracted pumpkin seed oil can help with urinary symptoms that are linked with BPH.
One study found that participants who ingested a commercially available product containing pumpkin seed extract experienced a more than 40-percent reduction in symptoms of prostate problems (19).
Consuming pumpkin seed extract can also help people with overactive bladder function normally.
In one study, researchers saw improved urinary function in people with overactive bladder issues (20).
Although it is unclear which ingredients are responsible for the improvement in symptoms, scientists think that sitosterols in the oils may be responsible.
These findings are important, especially for elderly people, who have an increased risk of injury when they get up at night to urinate because of an overactive bladder.
4. Pumpkin Seeds Are High In Magnesium
Pumpkin seeds contain 150 mg of magnesium per ounce.
Americans have been found to consume too little magnesium (23).
Although the body will hold onto any excess magnesium when intake of the mineral is low, consistently consuming too little magnesium can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and migraines (24).
Magnesium is required for the body’s cells to function properly. Adequate levels of magnesium in the body can help:
5. Pumpkin Seeds Reduces Cancer Risk
Many of the nutrients in pumpkin seeds are associated with lowered cancer risk.
Studies have found that people who consume more fiber can lower their risk of breast cancer by 11 percent (18).
The phytoestrogens in the seeds act like estrogen in the body and may have anti-carcinogenic properties (30).
Beta-carotene in pumpkin seeds has been associated with the prevention of certain cancers (31).
A major long-term study found that women who ate the most foods with beta-carotene were at the lowest risk for breast cancer (33).
Others research indicates that pumpkin seeds contain lignans, which might aid in preventing and treating breast cancer (34).
Pumpkin seeds are an ideal source for carotenoids.
Many health organizations recommend getting beta-carotene from foods as opposed to supplements (35).
6. Pumpkin Seeds Are Good For Your Heart
As explained above, pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium.
Magnesium may be crucial in preventing cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease (39).
One study found that people with higher magnesium levels in the blood had a 38% lower risk of sudden cardiac death (40).
Some researchers think that the nitric oxide in pumpkin seeds is what lowers blood pressure and protects heart health (43).
Nitric oxide works to relax and expand the arteries, improving blood flow to the heart (44).
Combining the antioxidants and fatty acids from pumpkin seeds with cholesterol-lowering drugs can help improve the health of the arteries in patients with high levels of cholesterol (45).
Adding pumpkin seed oil to a regimen that involves using medication to lower blood pressure can increase the positive effects of the medication (46).
In one study, postmenopausal women who took pumpkin seed oil supplements for 12 weeks experienced a 7% decrease in their diastolic blood pressure and a 16% increase in HDL cholesterol levels (47).
7. Elements in Pumpkin Seeds Regulate Blood Sugar
We have seen how the magnesium in pumpkin seeds is beneficial for many aspects of your health.
It can also help the body use glucose more efficiently.
One study found that people who consumed enough magnesium in their diets had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (48).
Patients with diabetes may display lowered antioxidant levels in the body. Consuming pumpkin seed powder can normalize antioxidant enzymes in those with diabetes (49).
In fact, pumpkin has been used to treat diabetes in Chinese medicine for centuries (50).
The proteins in pumpkin seeds can lower blood sugar levels and increase the production of insulin.
In addition, extracts from the pumpkin itself can benefit people with diabetes (51).
8. Pumpkin Seeds Enhances Fertility
One ounce of pumpkin sees contains about 2 mg of zinc (52).
That’s almost 20% of the recommended daily intake for men (53).
Men who don’t eat enough zinc may have poor sperm quality and infertility issues (54).
Sperm are extremely susceptible to oxidative stress, which can damage DNA and reduce sperm count (55). Zinc’s antioxidant effects may help improve sperm quality.
People who undergo immunosuppressive treatments for cancer and other diseases may be able to protect their sperm from the damaging effects of those drugs with pumpkin seed oil supplementation (56).
Antioxidants can also improve a woman’s fertility (57).
Nutritional factors can also affect testosterone levels (58). The healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamin A in pumpkin seeds support balanced testosterone.
9. Pumpkin Seeds is High in Fiber
If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, you can eat pumpkin seeds with the shell.
When the shell is included, pumpkin seeds contain about 5 grams of fiber per ounce (59).
Pumpkin seeds from traditional carving pumpkins include a fibrous shell.
The shell-less, green kernels that are sold in most grocery stores only contain 1.8 grams of fiber per ounce (60).
- Enhancing digestive function.
- Reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.
- Regulating blood glucose levels.
- Lowering blood pressure.
Most people in the United States don’t eat enough fiber.
The recommended fiber intake is about 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed (63).
This means that an adult male who takes in 2,500 calories a day should be consuming about 35 grams of fiber.
Once ounce of whole pumpkin seeds could account for 14% of that fiber daily intake.
10. Pumpkin Seeds Snacking Can Help You Sleep
Pumpkin seeds are one of the top sources of tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps with the synthesis of chemicals in the brain that help regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
With about 160 mg of tryptophan per ounce, pumpkin seeds may help you sleep (64).
Adding just 1 gram of tryptophan to your diet each day could help you sleep better (66).
Even though pumpkin seeds contain more tryptophan than almost any other food, you would need to eat more than six ounces of pumpkin seeds to consume one gram of tryptophan.
That’s not impossible, however, especially if you snack on them throughout the day.
The magnesium in pumpkin seeds may also help you sleep.
The right amount of magnesium in your diet can help regulate sleep. Too much or too little magnesium can cause problems with sleep (67).
11. A Convenient Addition To Your Nutrition
The seeds that come from a carving pumpkin have tough white shells around them. The shells are edible, but they contain a lot of roughage.
The pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, that you can buy at the grocery store come from a different type of pumpkin.
These seeds have a thin, paper-like shell and are easier to eat. They are greenish instead of white.
Pumpkin seeds can be incorporated into your diet in a number of ways.
They make a neutral snack that can be combined with sweet or savory items, like raisins or cheese. Pumpkin oil can be drizzled on salads.
Pumpkin seeds can be baked into breads, muffins or cookies.
You can also incorporate pumpkin seeds into each meal of the day.
- Breakfast: Mix unsalted, hull-less seeds in with your cereal, sprinkle them on fruit, or incorporate them into a smoothie.
- Lunch: Sprinkle roasted, salted pumpkin seeds on salads or soups for added crunch.
- Dinner: Grind the seeds and mix them as a coating for chicken, fish or pork.
In many countries, pumpkin seeds are eaten raw, dried or roasted.
However, many seeds, including pumpkin seeds, have anti-nutritional factors (phytic acid) that can prevent the body from absorbing some of the nutrients.
A solution is to process them by boiling, fermenting, sprouting or roasting can make them more easily digestible (70).
Does Eating Pumpkin Seeds Have Any Negative Effects?
Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients.
They don’t have an overpowering flavor, which makes it easy to add them to a variety of recipes.
While there aren’t any direct detriments to eating too many pumpkin seeds, they are high in calories per ounce.
If you’re counting calories or watching your waistline, you may want to measure out your portions of pumpkin seeds.
It’s easy to eat more than a serving in one sitting.
Because seeds have a coating that makes them difficult to digest, they may cause digestive distress like gas or bloating if consumed heavily.
You can minimize this effect by cooking or sprouting them before eating them.
Eating pumpkin seeds with hulls can cause more digestive issues than eating the hull-less kind. That’s because the hulls contain most of the fiber.
Eating Pumpkin Seeds For Health
Whether you need a quick snack or are trying to improve your nutrition in general, you can easily add pumpkin seeds to your diet.
They are a great source of many vitamins and nutrients that are essential for your well-being.
Most notably, they can benefit your cardiovascular health, fertility, sleep, blood sugar and urinary health.
Eating pumpkin seeds can also decrease your risk of certain cancers and other diseases.
You may find supplements that contain concentrated levels of the nutrients found in pumpkin seeds, although experts recommend trying to get the majority of your nutrients from whole foods as part of your regular diet.
So what do you think about pumpkin seeds, let me know in the comments below.
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