You know what it means when the weather turns cool and the leaves start to change, right? It means make way for the pumpkin riot. Market produce bins are like exploding cornucopia spewing orange squash, windows everywhere host dancing paper pumpkins, and pumpkin flavor has invaded just about anything that you can put in your mouth.
And of course, the annual rite of carving pumpkins has kitchens across the country being littered with pumpkin innards. But with all this pumpkin reverie, we often overlook one of the best parts about the seasonal squash: the seeds!
If you make a habit of not wasting food or if you happen to love pumpkin seeds already, chances are you roast them. But if you're one of the many who toss the seeds, may we suggest that you reconsider? You should eat them, and here’s why:
1. They’re plant-based protein bombs
According to the USDA nutritional database, this is how 1 cup of roasted pumpkin seeds stacks up nutrition-wise: (Other sources proffer them with even higher positive numbers, but we’re sticking with the more-conservative USDA data.)
11.87 grams protein
12.42 g fat
11.8 g dietary fiber
See all that protein? You want that! Although plant-based protein differs from animal-based, it’s just as important and pumpkin seeds are a great way to boost your protein intake without resorting to red meat. The fiber is a great bonus too; and while the fat content looks high, it is predominantly the “healthy fats” that many of us don’t get enough of.
2. They boost your magnesium
That same cup of roasted pumpkin seeds also boasts 168 milligrams of magnesium, more than half of the 310 mg adult women should consume daily. The body needs magnesium for many processes, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels and blood pressure, plus making protein, bone and DNA. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that people in the United States consistently have intakes of magnesium that are lower than recommended amounts.
The body likes potassium for jobs such as helping muscles contract, regulating fluids, balancing minerals and maintaining blood pressure; it may also help reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones and bone loss as the body ages. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science recommends that adults consume at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day, which is twice as much as most people get. Pumpkin seeds are a notably rich source of this important mineral with 588 mg per cup. Compare that to the famous potassium source known as a banana — a medium one provides 422 mg.
Scoop, rinse, roast, salt, eat! (Photo: Denise Torres/Shutterstock)
4. They bolster your immunity
There’s a reason that treatments to prevent and quell the common cold generally contain zinc; it’s an important mineral that plays a significant role in immune function. The National Institutes of Health recommends 8 mg of zinc daily for adult women, and a cup of pumpkin seeds will almost meet that with its 6.59 mg.
5. They help with prostate health
Research suggests that pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds may be beneficial in supporting prostate health as well as treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate). Prevention magazine reports that pumpkin seeds have protective compounds known as phytosterols, which might be responsible for shrinking the prostate. They also offer chemicals that may prevent some transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is associated with enlarged prostate.
6. They may make you happy!
Shape magazine suggests that the L-tryptophan in pumpkin seeds can improve the mood naturally and may even be effective against depression. (Can’t hurt to try that!) Meanwhile, The Times of India suggests eating pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed for the L-tryptophan (which is used in melatonin and serotonin production) to help encourage a good night’s sleep.
7. The are chock-full of antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds are unique in their abundance of antioxidants. WHFoods.org notes that the 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. Importantly, says the site, “this diverse mixture of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds may provide them with antioxidant-related properties that are not widely found in food.” They're special!
OK, so now that we’ve got that all figured out, here’s how to roast them.
And here are some other ways to put those seeds to work: