Many people link pumpkin with Thanksgiving or Halloween, often ignoring the year-round benefits of this healthy food, particularly the seeds, also known as pepitas.
With a remarkable assortment of health-enhancing nutrients, pumpkin seeds are fast becoming a popular snack among health-conscious people.
Pumpkin seeds are high in manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, zinc, iron, tryptophan and protein. They are a good source of vitamins E, K, C and many B vitamins.
They are also rich in good quality protein and essential fatty acids. In addition, phenolic and free radical-scavenging antioxidants are present in various forms.
Best of all, pumpkin seeds are readily available year-round, are highly portable and require no refrigeration.They make an excellent and quick snack to have on hand whether you are at home, the office or on a vacation.
The seeds have a sweet, creamy, nutty flavor and are enjoyed in deserts, as a snack and in savory dishes. You can add the seeds to sautéed vegetables and sprinkle them on salads, soups and smoothies. In addition, you can use pumpkin seeds in your baking.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of pumpkin seeds.
1. Lowers Bad Cholesterol Level
Regular consumption of pumpkin seeds can help lower the level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) in the body.
In a 2012 study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, researchers found that rats induced with atherosclerosis and supplemented with pumpkin seeds showed a significant increase in protective high-density lipoproteins (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) as well as a decrease in LDL cholesterol.
The phytosterols in pumpkin seeds help lower LDL levels, in turn preventing blood clots and atherosclerosis.
Moreover, these seeds are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid that help lower LDL and increase HDL in the blood.
Eat 2 to 4 tablespoons of dry roasted pumpkin seeds daily to help lower your LDL. Make sure to eat the seeds without adding any extra salt.
2. Controls Blood Sugar
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, pumpkins seeds can have a positive impact on diabetes.
This study suggests that pumpkin seeds help improve insulin regulation and prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
In addition, phytochemical compounds in pumpkin seed oil help prevent diabetic nephropathy (diabetic kidney disease).
Diabetic people can consider pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack. Eat up to 2 tablespoons of roasted pumpkin seeds a day.
3. Fights Anxiety
A 2007 study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed that tryptophan, an amino acid found in pumpkin seeds, helps alleviate anxiety.
The brain uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy and at ease. When the body has less tryptophan, it can lead to anxiety, depression and other mood irregularities.
In addition, the B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids in pumpkin seeds help the nervous system work more efficiently, reduce anxiety and calm the nervous system.
When you feel wired or stressed after a long day, eat some roasted pumpkin seeds to help calm you down.
4. Relieves Arthritis Inflammation
Pumpkin seeds and their oil exhibit anti-inflammatory effects and hence are very helpful in treating arthritis, especially osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Their anti-inflammatory and pain-suppressing properties can alleviate pain and inflammation in the joints.
In a 1995 study published in the journal Pharmacology Research, pumpkin seed oil was found to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in treating arthritis in rats induced with arthritis, but without the side effects.
To reduce inflammation related to arthritis, massage the affected area with pumpkin seed oil twice daily for 10 minutes. In addition, include pumpkin seeds in your diet.
5. Improves Bladder and Prostate Health
Pumpkin seeds support bladder function and combat symptoms associated with an overactive bladder. They can also help treat an enlarged prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The compounds known as phytosterols found in pumpkin seeds help shrink an enlarged prostate.
Moreover, the high zinc content supports prostate health, helps improve urinary flow and reduces nighttime urinary frequency.
For treating BPH, eat a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds daily.
6. Protects Bones
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of magnesium, which is essential for improving bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found a strong connection between high magnesium intake and higher bone mineral density.
In addition, pumpkin seeds are rich in phosphorous and zinc, which are natural protectors against osteoporosis. These minerals also reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Eating ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds daily can reduce bone weakness and osteoporosis symptoms.
7. Improves Heart Health
Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, which helps in many important heart functions, including the pumping action of your heart and relaxation of the blood vessels.
Moreover, this mineral helps control high blood pressure and plays a key role in preventing sudden cardiac arrest, heart attacks and strokes.
The high copper in pumpkin seeds helps increase the body’s red blood cell count and improves the flow of oxygenated blood through the vessels.
This in turn improves heart functioning. In addition, the healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber in pumpkin seeds are good for heart health.
Include pumpkin seeds in your diet to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
8. Prevents Intestinal Worms
Pumpkin seeds have antiparasitic properties that help eliminate tapeworms, pinworms and other dangerous parasites in the intestines. The exact mechanism by which pumpkin seeds do this is somewhat unclear. However, the result is definitely positive.
It is believed that the seeds do not actually kill the worms but paralyze them, thus preventing them from holding on to the intestinal walls during a bowel movement.
Chew pumpkin seeds on an empty stomach daily for a few weeks to get rid of intestinal worms. Make sure to drink plenty of water as well to help expel the worms.
9. Regulates Sleep
Pumpkin seeds contain a high amount of tryptophan, an amino acid that the body converts into serotonin and then into melatonin.
Both serotonin and melatonin help promote a restful night’s sleep. In addition, the zinc in pumpkin seeds assists the brain in converting tryptophan into serotonin.
To promote sleep, mix 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seed powder in a glass of warm milk and drink it at least 1 hour before bedtime.
10. Boosts Immune System
Rich in zinc, pumpkin seeds help boost your immune system. Moreover, zinc deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to colds and flus, chronic fatigue, weakness, acne and many other health problems.
In addition, pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidants that are essential for a healthy, disease-free body. These seeds also contain selenium, which helps prevent free radical damage and promotes quick recovery.
Start your day with a healthy smoothie topped with ground pumpkin seeds to keep your immune system strong, improve your metabolism and increase your energy level.
- As pumpkin seeds contain are high in calories, eat them in moderation to prevent weight gain. A handful of pumpkin seeds daily are enough.
- To preserve the healthy nutrients present in the seeds, eat them raw.
- It is best to purchase organic raw pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed powder.