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.