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The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds and Pepitas

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author image Paula Martinac
Paula Martinac holds a Master of Science in health and nutrition education from Hawthorn University, with an emphasis on healthy aging, cancer prevention, weight control and stress management. She is Board Certified in holistic nutrition and a Certified Food and Spirit Practitioner. Martinac runs a holistic health counseling practice and has written extensively on nutrition for various websites.
The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds and Pepitas
A close-up of roasted, unshelled pumpkin seeds. Photo Credit StewartBurnett/iStock/Getty Images

When you carve your pumpkin in October, rather than just tossing the seeds, roast them in the oven for a nutritious snack. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are a natural source of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds can be boiled, baked or eaten raw. They are low-calorie, high-nutritive snacks and can help improve various physical conditions including prostate and bladder problems, as well as depression. If you’re buying pumpkin seeds at the grocery store, steer clear of the heavily salted pepitas as they can add too much sodium to your diet. Opt for the plain, dry roasted variety instead. Pepitas or pumpkin seeds can include any seeds from the large squash varieties, including Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita mixta.

Calories, Protein, Fiber and Omega-3s in Pumpkin Seeds

The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds and Pepitas
Pepitas are generally shelled pumpkin seeds and green in color. Photo Credit antpkr/iStock/Getty Images

A 1-ounce serving of roasted pumpkin seeds – about a handful – contains 163 calories and gives you almost 8.5 grams of protein. That’s 15 percent of the daily requirement for men and 18 percent for women. The same-size serving is low in carbs, providing just 4 grams, almost half of which come from fiber, a nutrient that supports healthy digestion and helps you feel full longer. Most adults need between 20 and 30 grams of fiber per day, according to Harvard School of Public Health. A 1-ounce serving of whole, unshelled pumpkin seeds can provide 17-to-26 percent of your daily fiber needs, while a serving of shelled pumpkin seed provides just 6 to 9 percent. Although 1 ounce of seeds has almost 14 grams of fat, all but 2.5 grams are heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Pepitas are loaded with essential fatty acids, EFA, omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Mineral and Vitamin Content in Pepitas

The nutritional value of pumpkin seeds includes vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, fat, carbohydrates and protein. For minerals, they include magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium and copper, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Database. Pepitas are a great source of zinc, a mineral that supports healthy immune function and is necessary for normal taste and smell. A 1-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds provides more than 2 milligrams of zinc, which is between 18 and 22 percent of an adult’s daily needs. In addition, these seeds supply niacin, or vitamin B3, which aids in circulation. A 1-ounce serving provides 8 and 9 percent of the daily requirement for this vitamin for men and women, respectively. The magnesium, zinc and healthy fats make pumpkins seeds a good dietary choice for those concerned about high blood pressure and heart health; however there is no clinical evidence that they can improve heart conditions.

Pumpkin Seeds for Prostate and Bladder Treatment

A randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the summer 2008 “Urology” journal treated 476 patients with lower urinary tract symptoms, LUTS, and benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH, with pumpkin seeds. The results showed a significant improvement of 6.8 points, which was 1.2 points over the placebo group. A 2014 study publishing in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that pumpkin seed oil from the types of pumpkin Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita pepo helped patients with the symptoms of an overactive bladder after 6-12 weeks.

Pepitas for Curing Intestinal Parasites

A combination of pumpkin seeds, onions and soy milk makes a remedy for parasitic worms in the digestive tract, according to the April 25, 2008, issue of the “American Chronicle.” Soak three tablespoons of pumpkin seeds in water for three hours. Then mix the soaked seeds, half an onion, a half cup of soy milk and 1 teaspoon of honey. Blend this in a food processor or blender until it's a liquid. Take this three times daily for three consecutive days. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, patients diagnosed with parasites should "eat more raw garlic, pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, beets, and carrots, all of which have been used traditionally to kill parasites."

Pumpkin Seeds for Depression and Anxiety

A chemical that the body makes from tryptophan called 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can regulate depression, stress and anxiety. It can have a positive effect on sleep, anxiety, mood, appetite and pain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For mild to moderate depression, 5-HTP can be an effective treatment because it increases the serotonin in the brain, which affects mood. Pumpkin seeds are a dietary source of tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP, according to the MedlinePlus.

Pepitas for Increasing Testosterone

Pumpkin seeds are rich in unsaturated fat, full of fiber and provide a number of nutrients including magnesium and amino acids, that may help enhance your testosterone levels. Despite the potential benefits, you should not use pumpkin seeds to address any medical conditions. Additionally, research published in the April 2011 edition of "Biological Trace Element Research" indicates that magnesium, of which pepitas are a good source, can promote increased testosterone levels. Pumpkin seeds also contain leucine, an amino acid that can help promote fat oxidation and endurance, so it's a popular sports nutrition supplement. Strength-training athletes may find it particularly beneficial, as June 1997 research from "The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness" indicates that consumption of leucine can support increased levels of testosterone.

Pumpkins Seeds for Weight Loss and Diabetes

Poly- and monounsaturated fats, as are found in pumpkin seeds, can help to keep your metabolism running smoothly and maintain hormone balance while also helping you stay full and satiated for longer amounts of time. While good fats are important in overall health, including weight management, eating pepitas have proven no benefit for weight loss. However, a study using only rats has correlated the antioxidants found in pumpkin seeds helpful in preventing complications of diabetes.

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