When fall rolls around, people everywhere will be enjoying the ubiquitous taste of pumpkin in everything from lattes to lip balm. But did you know eating pumpkin seed shells can be just as tasty as any other fall treat? Better yet, they're full of nutrition.
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Pumpkin seeds have a variety of culinary uses and health benefits that you're going to want to know before another fall season passes you by.
Can You Eat Pumpkin Seed Shells?
The inside of pumpkin seeds is what most people go for, but you can save yourself some time having to remove the shell by eating the whole seed — shell and all. This also increases the amount of fiber per serving.
"Yes, you can eat pumpkin seed shells," says registered dietitian Amy Gorin, RDN. "Some people may not like how crunchy the shells are, but they are edible and safe for most people to eat in moderate quantities."
Eating pumpkin seed shells is perfectly safe and will add to the fiber content of this already nutritious snack.
Shelled vs. Whole Pumpkin Seed Nutrition
If thinking about sweet or savory pumpkin seeds has stoked your appetite, you'll be happy to know that they're just as good for the rest of your body as they are for your taste buds. Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats and minerals.
Take a look at pumpkin seeds' nutrition below. The nutrition facts for pumpkin seeds can vary depending on whether you eat the kernel alone or eat the shell too. The same serving of pumpkin seeds with the shells contains fewer calories, fat and protein but more carbs, fiber and zinc.
Per 1 ounce
Pumpkin Seeds With Shells
Pumpkin Seed Kernels
6% Daily Value (DV)
Benefits of Whole Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seed shells are a source of healthy nutrients. The shells contribute to their overall fiber content, which is helpful in fighting diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
"When you eat a pumpkin seed with its shell, you're taking in more fiber than by eating the shelled seed," Gorin says. "Fiber is beneficial for helping cholesterol levels and helping with satiety, which benefits weight management. Whole pumpkin seeds contain more than double the fiber content of shelled pumpkin seeds."
Minerals and Other Nutrients
Pumpkin seeds are an especially rich source of magnesium. A 1/4-cup serving offers 42 percent of your Daily Value (DV) for magnesium, a mineral many of us aren't getting enough of, according to the American Heart Association. Magnesium plays an important role in heart and bone health and can help lower blood pressure and prevent migraines.
Risks of Eating Whole Pumpkin Seeds
Bear in mind that even with all these benefits, eating pumpkin seeds has side effects.
Some people are allergic to pumpkin seeds. Additionally, pumpkin seeds can interact with lithium, an antimanic drug used for controlling unusual activity in the brain. People who are taking lithium should not eat pumpkin seeds.
"The main risk of eating too many pumpkin seed shells is that you could take in a large amount of fiber," Gorin explains. "People with medical conditions that make it difficult to eat large amounts of fiber in a sitting, such as people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn's disease, may want to avoid eating in-shell pumpkin seeds or limit the amount that they consume."
Eating too many high-fiber foods, such as whole pumpkin seeds, can cause digestive upset like bloating, gas and diarrhea. Transition to a higher-fiber diet slowly, and be sure to drink plenty of water along the way.
Boiling the seeds in water over low-to-medium heat for about 10 minutes may make the seeds easier to digest. (You could also de-shell the seeds, which would reduce the fiber content — but you're better off adding more fiber to your diet slowly than avoiding fiber altogether in the long-term.)
How to Prep Pumpkin Seeds
Also called pepitas, pumpkin seeds can be bought from the grocery store or made at home. Preparing your own allows you to avoid the sodium that can be in prepared packaged varieties.
So, how do you take these white seeds you scoop from the guts of a pumpkin and turn them into an edible snack?
Remove the Pulp
To improve the texture of fresh pumpkin seeds, it's important to remove all the pulp before roasting them. The pulp won't hurt you, but it might affect the way the seeds taste.
Soak the pumpkin seeds in water for a little while to get all the pulp off, then strain them before adding seasoning and spice.
Add Spices and Roast
Once you've cleaned your fresh pumpkin seeds, you can get creative in the way you prepare them. You can play around with sweet and savory spices.
If you want something reminiscent of pumpkin pie, you can use cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and brown sugar. You could create another sweet treat for colder seasons by using cocoa powder, cinnamon and raw sugar to make them taste like hot cocoa.
If you want something savory, try garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and oregano.
After you've added your spices and other seasonings, spread the seeds out on a baking sheet and roast them at 350 degrees F for about 15 to 20 minutes.