I love everything about pumpkins, including their seeds. As a kid I loved tearing them out of our carved pumpkins at Halloween, and cleaning them to roast in the oven. But these days it’s easy to find raw, sprouted, and roasted pumpkin seeds year-round.
A one-ounce portion (roughly a quarter cup) provides about 150 calories, 15 grams of healthful fat, just a few grams of carbs, and an impressive 8 to 10 grams of plant protein. They’re also nutrient-packed, and health protective. Here are six key pumpkin seed perks, and some simple ways to incorporate them into your meals and snacks.
High in magnesium and other minerals
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a good source of magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, and copper. Magnesium helps improve mood and sleep, while manganese plays a role in collagen production and promotes skin and bone health. Iron and copper are involved with energy production, and iron also helps transport oxygen to our cells. Zinc supports immunity, skin health, and vision. Just one serving of pumpkin seeds can supply 14 to 42% of the daily target for these essential nutrients.
RELATED: 13 Foods That Are High in Magnesium
High in antioxidants
In addition to minerals, these mighty seeds are also packed with cell protective antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin E. In addition to reducing inflammation, antioxidants help fend off premature aging and chronic diseases.
Full of 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, the benefits of ALA include heart disease protection, reduced risk of artery hardening, and anti-inflammation.
Control blood sugar
On top of being low in carbs and a good source of plant protein, research suggests that pumpkin seeds help protect against type 2 diabetes or reduce its complications in other ways, such as improving insulin regulation, and protecting organs against the consequences of diabetes.
Improve the immune system
In addition to the zinc and iron in pumpkin seeds, which are both vital for immune function, pumpkin seeds possess anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Pumpkin seeds are also not a common trigger of allergies and intolerances.
May improve sperm quality
Research shows that both pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil help to protect prostate health. The seeds’ zinc content may also support male fertility, as low zinc levels have been tied to reduced sperm quality.
How to eat more pumpkin seeds
You can sprinkle pumpkin seeds on just about anything, from oatmeal or overnight oats to garden salads, cooked veggies, stir-frys, soups, whole grain dishes, tacos, and of course, desserts. Pumpkin seed butter can also be whipped into smoothies, swirled into yogurt, drizzled over fruit, or used as the base for energy bars or balls.
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Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.