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. In many food markets, pepitas are available in all of the forms described above—raw and shelled, raw and unshelled, roasted and shelled, roasted and unshelled.
Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as a source of the mineral zinc, and the World Health Organization recommends their consumption as a good way of obtaining this nutrient. If you want to maximize the amount of zinc that you will be getting from your pumpkin seeds, we recommend that you consider purchasing them in unshelled form. Although recent studies have shown there to be little zinc in the shell itself (the shell is also called the seed coat or husk), there is a very thin layer directly beneath the shell called the endosperm envelope, and it is often pressed up very tightly against the shell. Zinc is especially concentrated in this endosperm envelope.
Because it can be tricky to separate the endosperm envelope from the shell, eating the entire pumpkin seed—shell and all—will ensure that all of the zinc-containing portions of the seed will be consumed. Whole roasted, unshelled pumpkin seeds contain about 10 milligrams of zinc per 3.5 ounces, and shelled roasted pumpkin seeds (which are often referred to pumpkin seed kernels) contain about 7-8 milligrams. So even though the difference is not huge, and even though the seed kernels remain a good source of zinc, you’ll be able to increase your zinc intake if you consume the unshelled version.
Pumpkin seeds are the only seed that is alkaline-forming; in this world of highly acidic diets, that is a very good thing.
Pumpkin seeds were discovered by archaeologists in caves in Mexico that date back to 7,000 B.C.
North American tribes were the very first to observe the particular miracle in pumpkin seeds. Pumpkins and their seeds were an important Native American Indian food used for their dietary and medicinal properties.
Pumpkin seeds are called pepitas in Mexico and they are a trademark of Mexican cuisine.
Pumpkin seeds were very popular in ancient Greece.
The nutrition in pumpkin seeds improves with age; they are among the few foods that increase in nutritive value as they decompose.
Rather than just tossing the seeds, roast them in the oven for a nutritious snack. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are a natural source of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds can be boiled, baked or eaten raw. They are low-calorie, high-nutritive snacks and can help improve various physical conditions including prostate and bladder problems, as well as depression. If you’re buying pumpkin seeds at the grocery store, steer clear of the heavily salted pepitas as they can add too much sodium to your diet. Opt for the plain, dry roasted variety instead. Pepitas or pumpkin seeds can include any seeds from the large squash varieties, including Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita mixta.
The pumpkin fruit, in general, is grown as a field vegetable crop. Its seeds, at the same time, have been in use as food, and to extract pumpkin seed oil since centuries. In fact, in some parts of central Europe (Styrian province in Austria, Slovenia and Hungary), pumpkins are being cultivated solely for their seeds, as a major oil-seed crop at a commercial scale.
Generally, the pumpkin fruit is allowed to mature completely in order to obtain good-quality seeds. Each fruit contains up to 500 cream-white husky seeds located at its central hollow cavity; interspersed in between net like mucilaginous network. The seeds are semi-flat, feature typical ovoid shape with a conical tip. Inside, its kernels feature olive-green color, sweet, buttery in texture and nutty in flavor. Pepitas enjoyed as snack, added in desserts and in savory dishes.
Immune Support (Pumpkin Seeds)
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc (one ounce contains more than 2 mg of this beneficial mineral). Zinc is important to your body in many ways, including immunity, cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function.
Many are deficient in zinc due to mineral-depleted soils, drug effects, plant-based diets, and other diets high in grain. This deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, acne, low birth weight babies, learning problems and poor school performance in children, among others.
While antioxidant nutrients are found in most WHFoods, it’s the diversity of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds that makes them unique in their antioxidant support. Pumpkin seeds contain conventional antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E. However, not only do they contain vitamin E, but they contain it in a wide variety of forms. Alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol are all forms of vitamin E found in pumpkin seeds. These last two forms have only recently been discovered, and they are a topic of special interest in vitamin E research, since their bioavailability might be greater than some of the other vitamin E forms.
Pumpkin seeds also contain conventional mineral antioxidants like zinc and manganese. Phenolic antioxidants are found in pumpkin seeds in a wide variety of forms, including the phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid.
Antioxidant phytonutrients like lignans are also found in pumpkin seeds, including the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol.
Interestingly, this diverse mixture of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds may provide them with antioxidant-related properties that are not widely found in food. For example, the pro-oxidant enzyme lipoxygenase (LOX) is known to be inhibited by pumpkin seed extracts, but not due to the presence of any single family of antioxidant nutrients (for example, the phenolic acids described earlier). Instead, the unique diversity of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds is most likely responsible for this effect.
Pumpkin seeds are unique in their abundance of antioxidants. Seeds contain numerous forms of vitamin E, as well as the phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic and syringic acid. Antioxidant phytonutrients like lignans are also found in pumpkin seeds, including the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol and lariciresinol.
Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of anti-oxidant vitamin E; contain about 35.10 mg of tocopherol-gamma per 100 g (about 237% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. It prevents tissue cells from the free radical mediated oxidant injury. Thus, it helps maintain the integrity of mucusa and skin by protecting from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men’s health. This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health (where it is found in the highest concentrations in the body), and also because pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate). Research suggests that both pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds2 may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health.
Pumpkin seed extracts and oils have long been used in treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a health problem involving non-cancer enlargement of the prostate gland, and it commonly affects middle-aged and older men in the U.S. Studies have linked different nutrients in pumpkin seeds to their beneficial effects on BPH, including their phytosterols, lignans, and zinc. Among these groups, research on phytosterols is the strongest, and it centers on three phytosterols found in pumpkin seeds: beta-sitosterol, sitostanol, and avenasterol. The phytosterols campesterol, stigmasterol, and campestanol have also been found in pumpkin seeds in some studies.
Depression and Anxiety
A chemical that the body makes from tryptophan called 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can regulate depression, stress and anxiety. It can have a positive effect on sleep, anxiety, mood, appetite and pain. For mild to moderate depression, 5-HTP can be an effective treatment because it increases the serotonin in the brain, which affects mood. Pumpkin seeds are a dietary source of tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP.
Inflammation and Arthritis
Certain studies have shown that pumpkin seeds have anti-inflammatory properties in the body, which is one of the common uses of this delicious snack. Inflammation can often be the result of various deficiencies, including that of protein, various vitamins, and minerals. Inflammatory conditions like arthritis can be debilitating. So adding healthy amounts of proteins into your body to keep the tissues healthy and repaired. As well as a good amount anti-inflammatory compounds will prevent that from happening. Pumpkin seeds have been directly associated with a decrease in inflammation and the associated pains of arthritis.
Our body functions at its highest levels when all of our systems are working efficiently and healthily. Having a stable and adequate amount of protein in your diet is essential. Because proteins are made up of amino acids, which can be used in thousands of enzymatic and metabolic processes every day. Without those essential amino acids and proteins, our bodies would cease being functional. And we would become weak, lethargic, unhealthy, slow-witted, and generally exhausted. Pumpkin seeds are a huge source of protein. 30% of pumpkin seed volume is made of protein. There are 12 grams of protein in a single cup of pumpkin seeds. Which is approximately 25% of our daily requirement of protein.
See also: “Spices“
Pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidant phytonutrients. Including the phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid; and the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol. Pumpkins seeds also contain health-supportive phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, sitostanol, and avenasterol. Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and copper. They are also a good source of other minerals including zinc and iron. In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein.