Are Pumpkin Seeds Poisonous?

Snack on pumpkin seeds to get healthy nutrients like protein, fiber and zinc.
Image Credit: Marek Walica/iStock/Getty Images

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

Are Raw Pumpkin Seeds Good for You?

Short answer? Yes, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

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Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), pumpkin seeds are rich in a variety of essential nutrients that your body needs to function at its best. For instance, a 1-ounce serving contains:

  • Calories:​ 158
  • Protein:​ 8.6 g
  • Fat:​ 13.9 g
  • Carbs:​ 3 g
    • Fiber:​ 1.7 g
  • Iron:​ 2.5 mg
  • Magnesium:​ 168 mg
  • Zinc:​ 2.2 mg
  • Manganese:​ 1.3 mg

You can eat unshelled or shelled raw seeds or roast them 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.

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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.

Here are the potential bad effects of eating 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:

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  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramping

So, how much is too much? Stick to the USDA-recommended serving size of 1 ounce to avoid potential digestive upset.

2. Food Poisoning

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.

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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:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

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.

3. Allergic Reaction

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:

  • 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

Warning

Some people can have an extreme allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, where your throat closes up and makes it difficult to breathe, per the Mayo Clinic. Seek medical care immediately if this happens to you.

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 April 2013 research in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

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.

Soaking seeds in water and then baking them can also help reduce phytic acid, according to the ​Journal of Food Science and Technology​.

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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. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.
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