Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds have a long history of nutritional use dating back to the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico over 7,500 years ago. Across many cultures, they’ve been used as a folk remedy to treat:

Modern science confirms that pumpkin seeds have an impressive nutrient profile that benefits many aspects of your health. They’re a rich source of protein, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that reduce risk factors of chronic diseases, including cancer.

You can buy pumpkin seeds raw, spouted, or roasted at most grocery stores and specialty health food retailers. When sold in their green shells, they’re also sometimes called pepitas. 

Health Benefits

Pumpkin seeds are a potent source of many nutrients, offering high levels of essential vitamins and minerals in a small serving. But they also are high in calories, so limit your portions to help manage a healthy weight. 

Add a handful to your meal for potential health benefits like:

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Pumpkin seeds are rich in many antioxidants, which protect our cells from disease-causing damage and reduce inflammation in our bodies. They’re also a great source of dietary fiber, which can enhance this effect. Studies show that pumpkin seeds’ anti-inflammatory abilities can help maintain good function in the liver, bladder, bowel, and joints.

Lower Risk of Diabetes

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, which most people don’t get enough of in their diet. Magnesium content helps regulate blood sugar levels, lowering your diabetes risk. Studies show pumpkin seeds also help people with diabetes maintain blood sugar control to manage the disease.  

Anti-Cancer Properties

Laboratory studies show pumpkin seeds can stop the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells. They also induce apoptosis or cancer cell death. These effects are largely attributed to pumpkin seeds’ high antioxidant activity, but much more research is needed to study a broader range of cancers. 

Healthy Heart Function

The high magnesium content in pumpkin seeds helps lower and regulate blood pressure. Thanks to this effect, diets high in magnesium are associated with a lower risk of stroke and death from heart disease

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Studies show that the antioxidants in pumpkin seeds also increase nitric oxide levels in your body. This molecule works to keep your blood vessels smooth, flexible, and healthy, improving blood flow and reducing the risk of heart and circulation problems.  

Better Sleep

Snacking on pumpkin seeds before bed may help you get a better night’s rest. Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. The zinc, copper, and selenium in pumpkin seeds can also affect sleep duration and quality. Finally, studies show that magnesium can help reduce stress and anxiety, contributors to insomnia.  

Nutrition

Pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals like manganese and vitamin K, both of which are important in helping wounds heal. They also contain zinc, a mineral that helps the immune system fight bacteria and viruses. 

Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving 

A quarter-cup serving of dried pumpkin seed kernels contains:

Portion Sizes

Because pumpkin seeds are high in calories, limit your portions to the recommended serving size of about one-quarter cup. The seeds’ high fiber content can help regulate your blood sugar and make you feel fuller, however, lowering the urge to overeat. 

How to Use Pumpkin Seeds

You can find pumpkin seeds with or without their shells at grocery stores or scoop them straight from a whole pumpkin. If buying a prepackaged product, look out for added ingredients like salt that reduce the seeds’ nutritional value. 

Pumpkin seeds make a great snack on their own, and they’re easy to add to many meals and recipes. 

Great ways to get pumpkin seeds’ small-but-mighty health boost in your diet include:

  • Add them to smoothies
  • Mix them into granola, yogurt, or cereal
  • Use them to add some extra crunch to a salad
  • Garnish any meal, like soups, chicken dishes, or pastas
  • Blend them with other ingredients in a dip like hummus, pesto, or guacamole
  • Bake them into cookies and breads
  • Toast or roast them in any spice or seasoning for a healthy snack 
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Advances in Wound Care: “Nutrition and Chronic Wounds.”

American Heart Association: “Pumpkin seeds pack a healthy punch.”

Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research: “Nutritional and Therapeutic Importance of the Pumpkin Seeds.”

Current Signal Transduction Therapy: “Strategies of Functional Foods Promote Sleep in Human Being.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Pumpkin Seeds.”

Harvard University: “Fiber.”

Harvard Medical School: “Magnesium.”

Indonesian Journal of Cancer Chemoprevention: “A Review: The Emerging Nutraceutical Potential of Pumpkin Seeds.”

Journal of Medicinal Food: “Antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects of pumpkin seed oil.”

Mayo Clinic: “Pros and cons of taking a magnesium supplement.”

Molecules: “Cucurbits Plants: A Key Emphasis to Its Pharmacological Potential.”

National Institutes of Health: “Zinc.”

Nutrients: “The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review.”

Nutrition Reviews: “Dietary fiber and its associations with depression and inflammation.”

PBS: “History of Pumpkins and Recipe Round-Up.”

USDA FoodCentral: “Pumpkin Seeds.”

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