13 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds and Recipe Ideas
Each year individuals get excited about that notorious fall food... Pumpkin! Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin oatmeal... You name it, there is some sort of pumpkin variation! But those nutritious pumpkin seeds (also recognized as pepitas) tend to take the back burner... With numerous benefits and uses, let pumpkin seeds shine this fall season!
Pumpkin Seeds Nutrition
Like most nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds are mostly a fat source with significant protein and a small amount of carbohydrate. But the fat content should not be a reason to shy away from (pumpkin) seeds, as they offer those notorious healthy fats, specifically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known to have recognized health benefits. Pumpkin seeds are also valuable sources of potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
*Adapted from USDA's National Nutrient Database
13 Pumpkin Seed Benefits and Recipes Ideas
1. Weight Management
Fiber and nutrient-rich foods are shown to contribute to a healthy weight or body mass index (BMI). Additionally, a plant-based diet may provoke weight loss with its emphasis on minimally processed foods from whole grains, fresh produce, and nuts and seeds.
2. Cardiovascular Health
Pumpkin seeds are heart protective in a number of ways. Firstly, the fiber content may aid in cholesterol reduction, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, have shown to be heart-protective while the iron content is imperative in keeping oxygenated blood efficient within the vasculature. New research further suggests magnesium may lower hypertension (high blood pressure) and the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).
3. Boost Mood
The seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid produced into serotonin and also known as the "feel good" hormone. The triggered brain chemical can initiate a calming effect and may lessen depressive feelings. Pumpkin seeds also contains zinc, a mineral assisting in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
4. Sleep Aid
Serotonin is further converted into melatonin, also known as the "sleep hormone." Adequate levels of melatonin are associated with improved sleep patterns, as the hormone regulates and controls sleep and wake cycles.
Relative to its zinc and omega-3 content, pumpkin seeds may diminish aging consequences. Omega-3 fatty acids may keep cell membranes protected, thus keeping skin cells healthy. Additionally, zinc may internally combat against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
6. Muscle Function
Both potassium and magnesium are vital to the body's muscles. Potassium is valuable for contracting muscles for efficient use while magnesium aids in the regulation of muscle function.
7. Immunity Bolster
The antioxidant properties of pumpkin seeds and its zinc content help boost the immune system. A robust immune system fights strong against the flu, cold, and other body infections.
Pumpkin Seed Recipe Ideas
8. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Mounted as a classic, roasting pumpkin seeds is actually quite simple! After deseeding the pumpkin, clean them off by separating the stringy pulp from the seeds. Rinse the seeds under cold water and shake dry. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, spread seeds on a non-stick baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes. Toss warm seeds in olive oil, salt to taste, and desired seasonings and spices. Return back to sheet and oven until golden, roughly 15 to 20 minutes.
9. Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Commonly used with pine nuts, pesto takes a fall twist! Compliment this pumpkin seed pesto with whole wheat pasta noodles, spaghetti squash, or fall roasted veggies including pumpkin itself!
10. Pumpkin Seed Granola
Despite the healthful connotation of granola, nutrients often take a backseat when added syrups and oils become added. Make granola nutritious again with this naturally-sweetened pumpkin flax granola recipe! Add flavor and crunch to a hearty bowl of oatmeal or a yogurt parfait.
11. Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Especially during the holiday season, brittle is a common sweet treat. This Triple Triple Brittle limits refined sugar by utilizing a small portion of pure maple syrup yet continues to offer the desired crunch from pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds and flavor with cinnamon, allspice, ginger, sea salt, and vanilla extract!
12. Pumpkin Seed Muffins
Ditch the dense muffins loaded with refined flours and sugars with a nutritious pumpkin seed muffin. The recipe lightens up breakfast by utilizing apricots, carrots, almond and coconut flour, and highlights pumpkin seeds themselves!
13. Spinach, Avocado, and Pumpkin Seed Salad
Replacing croutons with nuts and seeds is a healthful swap while still offering crunch. This baby spinach, avocado, and pumpkin seed salad is a lightly dressed salad sure to please the waistline and taste buds!