When the fall season 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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Yes, the sweet, cinnamon taste associated with pumpkin will always be popular, but that's not the only way to use this autumnal vegetable. Its 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.
Eating pumpkin seed shells is perfectly safe and will add to the fiber content of this already healthy snack.
Why Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
When you carve up a pumpkin and scoop out the pulp from inside the rind, have you ever thought about eating the seeds? If you haven't, there are plenty of reasons that you should. Also called pepitas, pumpkin seeds can be bought from the grocery store, but the American Heart Association encourages you to prepare your own to avoid the sodium that can be in prepared packaged ones.
So, how do you take these white seeds you scoop from the guts of the pumpkin and turn them into an edible snack? And should you leave the shells on them, or do you need to hull the shells before preparing the seeds?
The short answer is yes, eating pumpkin seed shells is completely safe. More important, eating pumpkin seed shells is especially healthy! The shells contribute to the overall fiber content, which is helpful in fighting diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
However, even if you're eating pumpkin seed shells, you're not going to want to eat pumpkin pulp. If you're looking 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.
Prepping Pumpkin Seeds
Once you've cleaned your fresh pumpkin seeds, you can get creative in the way you prepare them. A few ideas, ranging from sweet to savory, are available from the Cleveland Clinic: 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, you can get an Italian taste with garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and oregano. Or come up with a recipe of your own with a little experimentation.
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.
Pumpkin seeds also taste great on their own without any dressing up. Roast them dry — meaning no added oil or sugar — and then add them to trail mix, toss them in a salad or sprinkle them over cereal.
Pumpkin Seed Nutrition Data
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. Take a look at pumpkin seeds nutrition data.
A half-cup of pumpkin seeds has only 143 calories and is packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc. Pumpkin seeds nutrition data is even more impressive when you recognize they are a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, vitamin A and folate.
Many experts are quick to hail the benefits of pumpkin seeds. According to the American Heart Association, a quarter-cup of pumpkin seeds can satisfy 42 percent of the average person's magnesium need, which is especially good because magnesium is a mineral lacking in many diets.
Magnesium plays an important role in heart and bone health. It also can help lower blood pressure and prevent migraines.
Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of zinc, which fights oxidation and inflammation in the body, and they have tryptophan, which can promote healthy sleep.
The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges hails the benefits of pumpkin seeds, noting that they were once prized by Native Americans for nutritional and medicinal uses. The high levels of vitamin E in pumpkin seeds are good for the immune system, and the high fiber content makes them great for blood sugar and blood lipids.
Another vital mineral in pumpkin seeds is iron. Carter BloodCare emphasizes their high iron content, noting that one serving has 20 to 30 percent of the average person's daily recommended amount. This is good for vegetarians and vegans who don't get iron from meat sources. Pairing the pumpkin seeds with a source of vitamin C will help the body absorb the plant-based iron.
Eating Pumpkin Seeds: Side Effects
Bear in mind that even with all these benefits, eating pumpkin seeds has side effects. The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges points out that 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.
Eating pumpkin seeds has side effects that other high-fiber foods also have: 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.
Carter BloodCare recommends avoiding the negative side effects on your digestive upset by boiling the seeds in water over low to medium heat for about 10 minutes, which will 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.)
Now that you know how to prepare and eat pumpkin seeds, and you understand pumpkin seeds nutrition data benefits, you'll want to enjoy them all year long. Well, you can! Pumpkin seeds aren't a seasonal flavor that goes away when it isn't fall, which is more than can be said about certain pumpkin treats. And maybe that's the best news of all.
- American Heart Association: “Pumpkin Seeds Pack a Punch”
- USDA Food Central: “Seeds, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Whole, Roasted, Without Salt”
- Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges: “Pumpkin Seeds 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Pumpkin Seeds: 7 Ways”
- Carter BloodCare: “Pumpkin Seeds for Iron”
- MedlinePlus: “Lithium”
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet”