Why You Should Snack on Pumpkin Seeds, aka Pepitas, All Year Round

When you carve your pumpkin this fall, rather than just tossing the seeds, roast them in the oven or eat them raw for a nutritious snack. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are a natural source of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that can add an array of nutritional benefits to any dish as well as a satisfying crunchy texture.

Raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas have more health benefits than their roasted counterparts. (Image: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages)

Need more reasons to add them to your shopping cart way beyond autumn?

The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Pepitas, the unshelled version of a pumpkin seed, are a solid source of all three macronutrients: protein, carbs and fats. With only 170 calories, pepitas provide 9 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat and 3 grams of carbs for a quarter cup, according to the USDA.

While the seeds are high in fat, they are made up of primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, according to Sarah Canterman, RD. These heart-healthy fats are linked to raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels and associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Pepitas also contain some fiber — 2 grams per quarter-cup serving — and beneficial minerals our bodies cannot produce themselves, like zinc, according to Canterman. Zinc, she says, is a trace element and crucial factor in promoting immune system health. The mineral can also help promote a healthy metabolism.

Pumpkin seeds are also high in magnesium, a crucial mineral that is responsible for more than 600 chemical reactions in the body, including those related to cellular repair, protein synthesis and nervous system function. Although this mineral is essential for overall health, 60 percent of Americans don't get the daily recommended amount of magnesium, according to a January 2015 review published in Physiological Reviews.

How to Add Pepitas to Your Diet

Although there are different varieties of pumpkin seeds to choose from, it's best to consume them raw, recommends Canterman. Although roasted pumpkin seeds are still a great snack, the roasting process can denature some of the minerals. Not to mention, they're often heavily salted when roasted.

While you can certainly snack on pepitas, you can also add them as a topping to spice up your daily lunch. Try tossing the seeds into a salad or sprinkling them onto avocado toast. Especially with seasonal cooking, pepitas are a crunchy addition to pumpkin-flavored dishes and desserts.

A Pumpkin Spice Pepita Trail Mix Recipe

This easy-to-make recipe is high in healthy fats, low in sugar and provides a balanced blend of carbohydrates and protein for all your activity needs, according to Canterman. Once you've gathered the ingredients below, all you have to do is combine in a plastic baggie and shake it up.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of nuts of choice (raw or roasted work but Canterman prefers raw almonds and walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or yogurt chips (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice seasoning
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