Are Pumpkin Seeds Poisonous?

Pumpkin seeds can cause side effects in some people, like GI upset.
Image Credit: Laurie Ambrose/Moment/GettyImages

Pumpkin seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch, which is why they're great to eat raw, sprouted or cooked. While the dangers of pumpkin seeds are minimal, there are some situations where the snack may affect your health.

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Here, learn whether it's possible to get pumpkin seed poisoning, other side effects of pumpkin seeds and when to see your doctor if they cause you trouble.

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Tip

It's generally considered safe to eat raw pumpkin seeds, although it's possible to have an allergic reaction to pumpkin seeds or get food poisoning from the snack.

Are Raw Pumpkin Seeds Good for You?

Short answer? Yes, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), pumpkin seeds are rich in a variety of essential nutrients your body needs to function at its best:

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Nutrients in 1 oz of Unsalted, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Calories

126

Protein

5.3 g

Fat

5.5 g

Carbs

15.3 g

Fiber

5.2 g

Magnesium

74.3 mg

Source(s): USDA

You can eat them shelled or unshelled in raw form, or roast pumpkin seeds for a toasty snack.

You can also try sprouted pumpkin seeds, which are a potent source of additional vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, per the Cleveland Clinic.

How Many Pumpkin Seeds Should You Eat Daily?

Stick to the American Heart Association's recommendation of a quarter-cup serving of pumpkin seeds (2 ounces) to avoid potential digestive upset and other unwanted side effects.

Potential Side Effects of Eating Pumpkin Seeds

While there are no specific dangers of pumpkin seeds, it is possible to have a bad reaction to them if you're allergic or eat a contaminated batch. Other than that, there aren't many disadvantages to eating pumpkin seeds.

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Here are some potential side effects of pumpkin seeds:

1. Digestive Trouble

Pumpkin seeds are rich in fiber. While that's an important part of a well-rounded diet, too much of the nutrient could give you digestive issues including:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping

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Sometimes you may find undigested pumpkin seeds in your stool. This can happen with other types of food, too, like corn pieces, other seeds and nuts. This is because some high-fiber foods aren't always broken down and absorbed in your digestive tract, per the Mayo Clinic.

Fix It

If you've eaten too many pumpkin seeds and are experiencing digestive discomfort, try taking an over-the-counter anti-gas pill or antacid like TUMS. If you're dealing with diarrhea, try a natural stomach-soother like ginger tea.

If you're finding pieces of pumpkin seeds in your stool, make sure you're chewing them thoroughly before swallowing.

2. Food Poisoning

Pumpkin seeds are not poisonous, but they can cause food poisoning if they've gone bad.

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Sprouted pumpkin seeds — along with other sprouted seeds — pose a risk of foodborne illness, per the Cleveland Clinic. Though they're not inherently poisonous or toxic, sprouts grow in warm, moist conditions that can allow disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli to flourish.

Per the Mayo Clinic, food poisoning can set in hours or days after you eat the contaminated food and may persist for days. Symptoms include:

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  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

But how do you know if pumpkin seeds are bad? Unfortunately, there's no way to tell if pumpkin seeds are bad just by looking at them.

Instead, the best way to avoid food poisoning from bad pumpkin seeds is to cook the sprouts to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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Fix It

Unfortunately, one of the only ways to heal from food poisoning is to ride it out. Make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids (like water or electrolyte-rich drinks) to replenish your supply.

If you can eat, try eating small amounts of soft, bland foods like toast, rice or bananas.

If your vomiting and diarrhea last for more than a day, call your doctor to see if you need medical intervention. You may have lingering bacteria that requires antibiotics to treat.

What About Toxic Squash Syndrome?

Turns out, there is an extremely rare condition you can get from eating fruits and vegetables in the Cucurbitacins family — including squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons — called toxic squash syndrome, or Cucurbit poisoning. The illness can result in severe hair loss and symptoms similar to food poisoning, like diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

This doesn't mean you have to give up eating pumpkin or squash altogether. If the squash or pumpkin you're eating tastes really bitter or rotten, then you should stop eating it, as it could contain cucurbitacin E, a toxin that can make people sick. This toxin really only occurs, though, when unintentional cross-pollination occurs among these fruits/vegetables, per the Republic of the Philippines National Nutrition Council.

3. Allergic Reaction

Anyone who is allergic to pumpkin seeds should not eat them. A pumpkin or pumpkin seed allergy can also lead to uncomfortable symptoms minutes or hours after you eat the seeds, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Per the Mayo Clinic, signs of a food allergy include:

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  • A tingly or itchy mouth
  • Skin rashes like hives or eczema
  • Swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat
  • Congestion
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Digestive issues like abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness

Fix It

If you experience mild allergic reaction symptoms after eating pumpkin seeds, like an itchy mouth or skin issues, you can try taking an antihistamine like Benadryl to see if that helps your symptoms.

If you're allergic reaction is severe, though, you should use an EpiPen if you have it and call 911 right away or go to the nearest emergency room.

Warning

Some people can have an extreme, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, where your throat closes up and makes it difficult to breathe, per the Mayo Clinic. In this case, use an EpiPen if you have one and call 911 immediately.

4. Decreased Mineral Absorption

Raw pumpkin seeds contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid, which are natural substances that may decrease your absorption of beneficial minerals, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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That said, the amount of phytic acid you get from eating pumpkin seeds as one part of a balanced diet is unlikely to mess with your overall nutrition, per a September 2020 review in ‌Nutrients‌. In fact, the review notes that phytic acid may even have antioxidant properties that protect your cells from damage.

Fix It

To help avoid the potential effects of anti-nutrients like phytic acid, you can soak pumpkin seeds in water and then bake them. You can also try eating pumpkin seeds in combination with other nutritious foods (like on a salad, for example), to help counteract the effects that phytic acid has, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

When to See a Doctor

If you've eaten pumpkin seeds in large quantities and develop side effects like GI upset, you may not need to visit your doctor (you could just reduce the number of pumpkin seeds you eat and/or avoid them).

But if eating pumpkin seeds causes you to have a severe allergic reaction (or food poisoning symptoms that don't go away after a day), then you should call your doctor. They can determine whether pumpkin seeds were the cause of your issue and offer medical treatment and/or tips to avoid the symptoms in the future.

Ultimately, though, you cannot get pumpkin seed poisoning. Pumpkin seeds are a nutritious and delicious snack and don't have to be avoided unless you're allergic or they cause your stomach to be upset.

FAQ

Common Questions

Why does my throat hurt after eating pumpkin seeds?

If your throat hurts after eating pumpkin seeds, but you don't have any other symptoms, it's possible that a piece of pumpkin seed scratched your throat as you were swallowing. In this case, drink some water or another beverage to help soothe the scratch.If your throat is hurting alongside other symptoms like throat tightness, swelling and difficulty breathing, however, you could be having a serious allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

Can pumpkin seeds cause an intestinal blockage?

While incredibly rare, there have been two reported cases of pumpkin seeds causing an intestinal blockage, according to a March 2017 report in ‌ACG Case Reports Journal‌. These cases only happened because extremely large quantities of pumpkin seeds were eaten at one time, and were not chewed or digested properly.

If you're eating the proper portion of pumpkin seeds, even daily, it's extremely rare for the seeds to cause an intestinal blockage of any kind.

Can you eat pumpkin seed shells?

Turns out, it is safe and actually healthy for you to eat pumpkin seed shells, per the Cleveland Clinic. The shells are an excellent source of fiber and can be easily roasted in the oven, or sautéed in a pan on the stove. Just be careful, though — some prepackaged whole pumpkin seeds contain a lot of sodium. If you're following a low-sodium diet, you may want to opt for an unsalted prepackaged variety, or make them homemade without the shells.

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references & resources

Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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