If you've ever endeavored to cook a pumpkin pie from scratch, you may have reveled in -- or been repulsed by -- the sensuously squishy mass of seeds contained within. An often unrecognized, value-added bonus, these slippery gems offer a high yield of health benefits for anyone with a bit of patience and a cookie sheet. Alternatively, store-bought pumpkin seeds are just as healthy, with less mess, and are readily available year-round.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc, providing 3 milligrams, which is more than a third of your daily requirement, in 1 ounce. Zinc is an important nutrient for wound healing and immune function. A study published in the October 2012 issue of the journal "Antiviral Research" found that zinc helped prevent herpes virus from attaching to cell surfaces. Zinc increases your body's levels of metallothionein, a protein that helps detoxify and protect you against infection, according to the University of Florida.
A good vegetarian source of iron, pumpkin seeds provide 4.25 milligrams, about 28 percent of your daily requirement, per 1-ounce serving. Iron is necessary for proper red blood cell formation and for carrying oxygen to your body's cells. It is also one of the most commonly deficient nutrients. Non-heme iron, the form found in pumpkin seeds and other plant foods, is not as easily absorbed as iron from animal products, so to help you derive the most iron benefits from your pumpkin seeds add a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds atop your dinner salad or fruit salad. These high-vitamin C foods help your body absorb non-heme iron.
Tryptophan, the amino acid your brain uses to produce the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, is found in abundant quantities in pumpkin seeds. A study published in the May 2012 issue of the journal "Nutrition Research" found that a diet rich in foods high in tryptophan promotes healthy, restful sleep. Increasing the amount of tryptophan you obtain through your diet may also reduce symptoms of depression, according to a laboratory animal study published in the February 2012 issue of the "Journal of Psychiatric Research."
Pumpkin seed oil is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins E, A and C. Pumpkin seed oil is also high in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which may protect the small intestine from toxin-induced damage, according to a study published in the December 2011 issue of the "Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics." In the laboratory animal study, five days of supplementation with pumpkin seed oil decreased inflammation and increased antioxidant levels in the intestinal lining. Further studies will be needed to confirm these results before pumpkin seed oil can be recommended for reducing inflammation in people.
- Ohio State University Agricultural Research and Development Center: Chow Line: Pumpkin Seeds Pack a Lot of Punch
- Antiviral Research: Prophylactic, Therapeutic and Neutralizing Effects of Zinc Oxide Tetrapod Structures Against Herpes Simplex Virus Type-2 Infection
- University of Florida News: UF Research Shows Zinc Triggers Body’s Defenses
- Duke University Student Affairs: Iron
- Nutrition Research: Diet Promotes Sleep Duration and Quality
- Journal of Psychiatric Research: Sub-chronic Dietary Tryptophan Depletion--an Animal Model of Depression with Improved Face and Good Construct Validity
- Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics: Sub-Chronic Dietary Tryptophan Depletion--An Animal Model of Depression with Improved Face and Good Construct Validity
- Experiments in Unit Operations and Processing of Foods; Maria Margarida Cortez Vieira and Peter Ho
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.