12 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds (+ Recipe)

12 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds (+ Recipe)

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

Ah, fall. Leaves are changing color, the air is getting brisk, and Starbucks has released their signature Pumpkin Spice Latte. While the latte might only be good in moderation, pumpkin seeds are a superfood superstar in their own right. And whether you're making jack-o-lanterns and roasting the seeds for a delightful autumn treat, or just buying them raw and unshelled (you may have seen them labeled as "pepitas") from your favorite health food store year-round, these small seeds pack a big punch when it comes to the health benefits they provide.

How many pumpkin seeds should I eat per day? What are the nutrients per serving?

Baking dish full of pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack

The American Heart Association recommends one ounce (or about a quarter cup) of pumpkin seeds daily as part of a healthy diet. Here's the dietary breakdown of one serving:

  • Calories: 126
  • Fat: 5.5 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 15.2 g
  • Fiber: 5.2 g
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 5.3 g

Pumpkin seeds also provide a great source of zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, niacin, tryptophan, among other nutrients. Eating just one serving of pumpkin seeds can help you obtain a whopping 14-42% of the daily recommended intake of these essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

What are the health benefits of pumpkin seeds?

Woman holding a small pumpkin

Besides a nutritional profile that would receive a gold star for inclusiveness, what are some of the other benefits of pumpkin seeds? There are plenty…twelve to be exact!

  1. Helps with sleep and mood

    —We all know how important it is to get a good night's sleep. Rejuvenating for both mind and body after a long day, your quality of sleep can be just as important as the quantity. And while you may have heard the old wives' tale that eating before bed can make it harder to fall asleep, you don't have to worry if you want to indulge on a midnight snack of pumpkin seeds! Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in the amino acid tryptophan (the culprit behind the yearly Thanksgiving turkey coma), which helps the body create serotonin, one of the body's "feel-good" neurotransmitters that impacts sleep and mood. Serotonin in turn helps regulate melatonin levels in the body, ensuring a healthy night's sleep and maintaining your circadian rhythm. Pumpkin seeds are also high in magnesium, another essential nutrient that is known for reducing stress and anxiety, main factors of insomnia.
  2. Supports cellular health

    —Pumpkin seeds are also known for being high in antioxidants, compounds that fight oxidation and cellular stress in the body. And since cellular health is connected to aging and other health concerns, a serving of pumpkin seeds can help protect against internal oxidative damage and fight free radicals caused by everyday air pollution and UV exposure—all things that can accelerate aging. A good source of vitamin E and carotenoids (the nutrient that gives a pumpkin its distinct orange color) as well, pumpkin seeds are also beneficial for vision health.
  3. Powerful anti-inflammatory

    —With a winning combination of high dietary fiber mixed with antioxidants, pumpkin seeds are also a powerful anti-inflammatory. And since inflammation can affect nearly every part of the body, it's important to incorporate dietary choices that fight inflammation to help prevent diseases and other conditions. Consider adding a spicy flair to your daily intake of pumpkin seeds so you can fight inflammation and enjoy a delicious and nutritious treat!
  4. Healthy blood pressure

    —No pressure, but are you looking out for your blood pressure? Look no further than pumpkin seeds! They're a great natural source of magnesium, a mineral that is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions, including helping keep blood pressure in check. And since a majority of Americans are not getting the adequate recommended amount of magnesium, a daily serving of pumpkin seeds will not only boost your magnesium levels, but keep those blood pressure readings right where you want them.
  5. Enhances immune function

    —We all know how important it is to keep our immune systems strong and healthy. And while there are plenty of foods that are known for their immune boosting properties, pumpkin seeds should be considered an immune supportive food as well because of their concentration of vitamin E. Vitamin E is necessary for the immune defense to fight off bacteria and other viruses. And we can't forget that pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc, a mineral well known for its immune enhancing properties.
  6. Improves blood sugar

    —Nothing is sweeter than having healthy blood sugar, and pumpkin seeds can help keep it that way! A study found that macromolecules in pumpkin seeds may have a hypoglycemic effect, making it a promising strategy for maintaining healthy glycemic control and improving blood sugar levels and insulin regulation, particularly among those with type 2 diabetes.
  7. Supports weight loss

    —Just because these seeds are a source of healthy fats, doesn't mean they can't also support burning fat, too! Because pumpkin seeds contain high concentrations of nutrients that have been known to support weight loss, including fiber (which supports the feeling of being full), protein and unsaturated fatty acids, these seeds can help you avoid overeating, excess snacking between meals, and get you one step closer to your weight loss goals.
  8. Improves prostate health

    —Prostate health can be harder to maintain with age. However, pumpkin seed oil in a study was found to be an effective treatment against benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition of prostate gland enlargement some men experience that can cause urinary symptoms. The study found that 320 mg per day of pumpkin seed oil over a period of 6 months improved their quality of life and produced an overall reduction of symptoms. And since a normal prostate has the highest levels of zinc in the body, eating pumpkin seeds (known for their high zinc content) can also help maintain optimal zinc levels in the body to support a healthy prostate.
  9. Better heart health

    –Pumpkin seeds are full of beneficial fats that help promote heart health. Besides heart-healthy and blood-pressure friendly magnesium, pumpkin seeds also contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3 fatty acids are known for their ability to help reduce triglycerides, a type of lipid concentrated in the blood that's associated with heart disease. Lower triglycerides=better cardiovascular markers! Pumpkin seeds have also been beneficial to heart health in postmenopausal women, with one study reporting improvements in HDL (known as the "good") cholesterol after using pumpkin seed oil for a period of 12 weeks.
  10. Strengthens bladder health

    —Pumpkin seeds are probably best known for their benefits to bladder health. One study found that that pumpkin seed extract improved urinary dysfunction in people that experienced overactive bladders. After 6 and 12 weeks, pumpkin seed oil reduced the overall severity of symptoms in subjects with overactive bladders evaluating their urinary function. It's also been found to protect against UTIs and helps strengthen bladder muscles.
  11. Fight hair loss in men

    —A preclinical study in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine found that topical application of pumpkin seed oil helped promote hair growth in mice. A separate double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study in men with androgenetic alopecia found that consuming 400 mg of pumpkin seed oil a day for 24 weeks helped fight hair loss.
  12. Can help fight some types of cancer

    —Pumpkin seeds have been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers. In fact, one study found that diets rich in pumpkin seeds were found to be associated with a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers. Perhaps the new adage should be "A handful of pumpkin seeds a day keeps the doctor away!"

What is the best way to eat pumpkin seeds?

While there's no one best way to eat pumpkin seeds, there are some healthy recipes that allow you to get the maximum benefits of this nutritious must-have, without the added calories and fat that you'll find in, say, a pumpkin seed muffin or loaf.

Struggling for inspiration? Fear not! Our own registered dietitian, Holli Ryan, has created a delicious and healthy recipe perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Pumpkin & Chia Seed Pudding Parfait Recipe

Pumpkin chia pudding in a mason jar next to a pumpkin

By Holli Ryan RD, LD/N

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or any milk of choice)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice blend
  • Seeds from 1/3 vanilla bean pod or 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • ½ scoop (about 1 tablespoon) of vanilla-flavored whey protein powder
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (divided)
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Cinnamon sticks (for garnish)

Cooking Directions:

In a large bowl, add your milk, maple syrup, pumpkin spice seasoning, vanilla bean seeds or extract, and vanilla whey protein (we like the Life Extension Wellness Code powder). Whisk until smooth. Then, whisk in ½ cup of pumpkin puree, reserve and refrigerate the other ¼ cup for the middle parfait layer. Next, add your chia seeds and whisk everything together to combine. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your parfaits, start by giving the mixture a stir with a whisk to break up any clumps of chia. Then, using your favorite cup or mason jar, begin by adding your first layer of the chia pudding mixture at the bottom of the glass. Next, add ¼ cup of yogurt and pat it down side-to-side with a spoon. For the third layer, add the remaining ¼ cup of pumpkin puree on top of the yogurt. Repeat with another layer of chia pudding. For your final layer, add the remaining ¼ cup of yogurt.

Top with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, garnish with a cinnamon stick, and enjoy!

 

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