Pumpkin seeds are good sources of protein and other nutrients. Combine them with granola, raisins and nuts in snacks and cereals, or use them instead of nuts in baked goods. Pumpkin seeds don’t contribute as much protein as beans, meat or some dairy products, but because they contribute protein to the complex carbohydrates found in cereals, salads and breads, they are useful for building a balanced meal.
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A serving size of pumpkin seeds, which equals approximately 1/2 cup, contains an average of 8 grams of protein, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database. The protein content depends on whether the pumpkin seeds are shelled or left with their husks on.
Shelled vs. Whole Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are available whole, with the husks left on, or in kernel form, with the husks removed. Each type has pros and cons nutritionally. Roasted kernels contain 9.3 grams protein per ounce while roasted whole seeds contain 5.3 grams protein per ounce. According to the Ohio State University Extension program, the kernels contain more 1.5 times the protein and twice as much iron as the same amount of whole seeds. Yet the hulls contain the bulk of the fiber content, meaning that a serving of kernels contains less than half the fiber as a serving of whole seeds.
Comparisons to Other Seeds and Nuts
As a source of protein, pumpkin seeds compare favorably to other seeds and to nuts. Sunflower and sesame seeds yield about 5.5 grams of protein per serving. Peanuts average 8 grams of protein per serving, almonds and pistachios about 6 grams. Chestnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts and cashews all contain less than 5 grams protein per 1-ounce serving.
Comparisons to Other Protein Sources
Many legumes and animal-based protein sources pack more protein into a single serving than pumpkin seeds, according to the USDA database. Turkey, lamb, chicken, beef, crab, tuna, pork, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese all contain at least three times more protein per serving than pumpkin seeds, while some milk and yogurt products also contain more.
To consume the 25 grams to 28 grams of protein found in the recommended 3-ounce serving of tuna or 1 cup of soybeans, you’d have to eat about 2 cups of dried pumpkin seeds. That's 613 calories, compared to the 110 calories of the tuna or the 298 calories of the soybeans.
According to the Ohio State University Extension, 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds offers almost 30 percent of the recommended daily amount of zinc and 20 percent of the recommended amount of iron. They also contribute magnesium, fiber and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Something to Consider
While pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein don't forget that they are also high in calories and fat. A 1-cup serving of pumpkin seeds contains 285 calories and 12 grams of fat. Even though the fat in pumpkin seeds is primarily healthy, monounsaturated fat, it still counts towards your daily fat intake which should be no more than 25 to 35 percent of your total calorie intake, according to the American Heart Association. If you are watching your waistline, limit your pumpkin seed intake.