Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are flat, green seeds usually encased in a fibrous white husk. The seeds are often roasted and salted, although they are also tasty and safe to eat raw. They are available year-round, but the seeds are freshest in autumn when pumpkins are in season. Pumpkin seeds have a history going back to early Native American civilizations, which celebrated them for their nutritional and medicinal value. In terms of nutrients, pumpkin seeds are one the healthiest snacks available and relatively affordable, too.
Pumpkin seeds are fairly calorie-dense, much like other seeds and nuts. For example, a quarter-cup of roasted seeds, or about 32 grams, contains 180 calories -- roughly 10 percent of the recommended daily amount for most adults. The vast majority of the calories are from fat, especially polyunsaturated and monounsaturated types such as linoleic and oleic fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds contain no cholesterol and only minute amounts of harmful trans fats.
Pumpkin seeds are rich sources of numerous minerals, particularly magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, but also good sources of zinc, iron and copper. A quarter-cup of roasted seeds contains about 400 milligrams of phosphorus and 200 milligrams of magnesium, or a little less than 50 percent of the recommended daily values for both minerals. Most minerals are an important component of bones, but also muscle function, enzyme production and immune response. Mineral deficiency due to depleted soil is a health problem in many regions of the world, including the United States.
Pumpkin seeds contain many vitamins, but are not considered by nutritionists to be a rich source of any. B-vitamins, which are essential for metabolism, energy production and healthy blood, are most prevalent in the seeds, especially niacin, folate and thiamine. Pumpkin seeds are also a fair source of vitamin K, needed for blood clotting, wound healing and strong bones.
Other Important Nutrients
Pumpkin seeds, like all seeds and nuts, contain plant protein in the form of long chains of amino acids. They don’t contain all the essential amino acids that people need, but the seeds are an especially rich source of tryptophan and phenylalanine. Tryptophan is an amino acid required to build the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate your mood and deter depression. Phenylalanine also helps lift mood, and interestingly, is found in abundance in the breast milk of virtually all mammals.
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Textbook of Functional Medicine; David S. Jones
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