Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are flat, greenish seeds surrounded by a white shell. The seed and the shell are both edible. They’re sold as roasted snacks, or you can toast your own. Pepitas are also used in Mexican cooking. Pumpkin seeds are good for you because they contain fats, natural plant compounds, fiber and nutrients that are healthy for your heart and may reduce inflammation.
Protein and Fiber
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and fiber. Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles and organs, plus protein is necessary for your immune system. Fiber helps keep your digestive system working properly. Pumpkin seeds are also energy dense, which means they provide a lot of calories. One ounce of pumpkin seeds, which is about 1/4 cup, has 158 calories.
Fats are essential for making cell membranes, and your body can use them for energy. They also help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Pumpkin seeds are high in total fat, and they’re an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid, which is a specific type of fat that’s good for brain function and might keep your heart healthy by lowering LDL cholesterol, fighting inflammation and reducing high blood pressure. Pregnant and breast-feeding moms need omega-3 fatty acids so that their babies’ eyes and brains develop fully.
Vitamins and Minerals
Pumpkin seeds contain vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting, and B-complex vitamins, which help you get energy from the foods you eat. Pumpkin seeds are rich in minerals, including zinc and magnesium. You need zinc for a healthy immune system and for wound healing. Pregnant women need zinc for the baby to develop normally. Magnesium helps keep your bones strong and is needed for normal muscle and nervous system function. Pumpkin seeds are also high in iron and potassium. Your red blood cells need iron to carry oxygen, and potassium helps keep your body fluids in balance.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seeds contain natural plant compounds called sterols and phytoestrogens, which are similar to human hormones. Oil from pumpkin seeds has concentrated amounts of sterols and phytoestrogens that might help to increase your HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol is the good type of cholesterol, and having higher levels of HDL is good for your heart and blood vessels.
Using Pumpkin Seeds
Remove raw seeds from a pumpkin and roast them in the oven, or buy them already roasted and packaged. Eat them as a snack, either alone or as an ingredient in trail mix or granola. Add pumpkin seeds to salads. Try substituting chopped pumpkin seeds for sunflower seeds in recipes.
- U.S.D.A. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Antihypertensive and Cardioprotective Effects of Pumpkin Seed Oil
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Alpha-linolenic Acid
- U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet -- Zinc
- U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet -- Magnesium
- MedlinePlus.com: Vitamin K
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images