Pumpkins, and their seeds, are native to the Americas. And indigenous species are found across North America, South America, and Central America.
The word “pepita” is consistent with this heritage, since it comes from Mexico, where the Spanish phrase “pepita de calabaza” means “little seed of squash.”
Pumpkin seeds were a celebrated food among many Native American tribes, who treasured them both for their dietary and medicinal properties.
In South America. The popularity of pumpkin seeds has been traced at least as far back as the Aztec cultures of 1300-1500 AD.
From the Americas, the popularity of pumpkin seeds spread to the rest of the globe through trade and exploration over many centuries.
In parts of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean (especially Greece), pumpkin seeds became a standard part of everyday cuisine.
And culinary and medical traditions in India and other parts of Asia also incorporated this food into a place of importance.
Today, China produces more pumpkins and pumpkin seeds than any other country. India, Russia, the Ukraine, Mexico, and the U.S. are also major producers of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.
In the U.S., Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins, followed by California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York.
However, pumpkins are now grown commercially in virtually all U.S. states, and over 100,000 acres of U.S. farmland are planted with pumpkins.
Here Are The 9 Amazing Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds:
1. Heart Healthy Magnesium
One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which participates in a wide range of vitally important physiological functions, including the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body).
The synthesis of RNA and DNA, the pumping of your heart, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of your blood vessels, and proper bowel function.
Magnesium has been shown to benefit your blood pressure and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke, yet an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in this important mineral.
2. Zinc for Immune Support
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.
3. Plant-Based Omega-3 Fats
Raw nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). We all need ALA, however, ALA has to be converted by your body into the far more essential omega-3 fats EPA and DHA — by an enzyme in which the vast majority of us have impaired by high insulin levels.
So, while pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of ALA, I believe it is essential to get some of your omega-3 fats from animal sources, such as krill oil, as well.
4. Prostate Health
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 seeds may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health.
5. Anti-Diabetic Effects
Animal studies suggest that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
6. Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
Pumpkin seed oil is rich in natural phytoestrogens and studies suggest it may lead to a significant increase in good “HDL” cholesterol along with decreases in blood pressure, hot flashes, headaches, joint pains and other menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women.
7. Heart and Liver Health
Pumpkin seeds, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers, may provide benefits for heart and liver health, particularly when mixed with flax seeds.
8. Tryptophan for Restful Sleep
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid (protein building block) that your body converts into serotonin, which in turn is converted into melatonin, the “sleep hormone.”
Eating pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed, along with a carbohydrate like a small piece of fruit. May be especially beneficial for providing your body the tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
9. Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
Pumpkin seed oil has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. One animal study even found it worked as well as the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in treating arthritis, but without the side effects.
What’s the Best Way to Consume Pumpkin Seeds?
In order to preserve the healthy fats present in the seeds, pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw. If you choose to purchase seeds from a bulk bin, make sure they smell fresh – not musty, spoiled or stale. Which could indicate rancidity or the presence of fungal mycotoxins.
Organic pumpkin seeds are preferred. As they will not be contaminated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
However, most nuts and seeds have anti-nutrients like phytic acid that can make all the previously discussed important nutrients less bioavailable when you consume them.
So if you plan on consuming seeds or nuts on a regular basis, it would be wise to soak or sprout them. To make them more palatable, you can then dehydrate them in your oven. Or better yet and more cost effectively in a dehydrator.
There are many dehydrators on the market, but Excalibur is generally considered the best. I have used one for over 20 years. They are readily available on Amazon.
If you prefer to eat the seeds roasted, do so yourself so you can control the roasting temperature and time. Raw pumpkin seeds can be roasted on a low heat setting in your oven (no more than 170 degrees F or 75 degrees Celsius), sprinkled with Himalayan or other natural salt, for about 15-20 minutes.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Tips for Preparing Pumpkin Seeds
While most stores sell pumpkin seeds, it is fun and easy to make your own. To do so, first remove the seeds from the pumpkin’s inner cavity and wipe them off with a paper towel if needed to remove excess pulp that may have stuck to them. Spread them out evenly on a paper bag and let them dry out overnight.
You can, of course, purchase pumpkin seeds in the store. We would recommend purchasing organic raw pumpkin seeds and then light-roast them yourself.
Place the seeds (whether those you retrieved from the pumpkin or those you bought at the store) in a single layer on a cookie sheet and light roast them in a 160-170°F (about 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes. This 20-minute roasting limit is important.
In a recent study, 20 minutes emerged as a threshold hold time for changes in pumpkin seed fats. When roasted for longer than 20 minutes. A number of unwanted changes in fat structure of pumpkin seeds have been observed by food researchers. Roasting for no longer than 20 minutes will help you avoid these unwanted changes.
Interestingly, studies have shown that roasting temperatures of 194°F (90°C) or higher are often required to bring out the full nut-like aromas and flavors in pumpkin seeds.
While we do not question this finding, we believe that the unsaturated fats in pumpkin seeds will be better preserved by roasting at this lower temperature—160-170°F (about 75°C)—and that you will still be delighted by the aromas and flavors of the roasted seeds.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Add pumpkin seeds to healthy sautéed vegetables.
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of mixed green salads.
- Grind pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley and cilantro leaves. Mix with olive oil and lemon juice for a tasty salad dressing.
- Add chopped pumpkin seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal.
- Add pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal raisin cookie or granola recipe.
- Next time you make burgers, whether it be from vegetables, turkey or beef, add some ground pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are not a commonly allergenic food and are not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines.
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.