The World's Healthiest Foods
Pumpkin seeds

Subtly sweet and nutty with a malleable, chewy texture, the roasted seeds from inside your Halloween pumpkin are one of the most nutritious and flavorful seeds around. Pumpkin seeds are available year around, however, they are the freshest in the fall when pumpkins are in season.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk, although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells. Like cantaloupe, cucumber, and squash, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family.

 


Health Benefits

Pumpkin Seeds Promote Prostate Health

Increasing incidence of prostate enlargement in U.S. men has catapulted pumpkin seeds into the health spotlight. These seeds contain chemical substances called cucurbitacins that can prevent the body from converting testosterone into a much more potent form of this hormone called dihydrotestosterone. Without dihydrotestosterone, it is more difficult for the body to produce more prostate cells, and therefore more difficult for the prostate to keep enlarging. The fact that pumpkin seeds serve as a good source of zinc makes them doubly well-suited for this role as a prostate protector, since zinc is a mineral also used by healthcare practitioners to help reduce prostate size.

Protection for Men's Bones

In addition to maintaining prostate health, another reason for older men to make zinc-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, a regular part of their healthy way of eating is bone mineral density. Although osteoporosis is often thought to be a disease for which postmenopausal women are at highest risk, it is also a potential problem for older men. Almost 30% of hip fractures occur in men, and 1 in 8 men over age 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture. A study of 396 men ranging in age from 45-92 that was published in the September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a clear correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral, and osteoporosis at the hip and spine. (October 18, 2004)

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits in Arthritis

The healing properties of pumpkin seeds have also been recently investigated with respect to arthritis. In animal studies, the addition of pumpkin seeds to the diet has compared favorably with use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in reducing inflammatory symptoms. Importantly, though, pumpkin seeds did not have one extremely unwanted effect of indomethacin: unlike the drug, pumpkin seeds do not increase the level of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the linings of the joints, a side-effect that actually contributes to the progression of arthritis.

A Rich Source of Healthful Minerals, Protein and Monounsaturated Fat

In addition to their above-listed unique health benefits, pumpkin seeds also provide a wide range of traditional nutrients. Our food ranking system qualified them as a very good source of the minerals magnesium, manganese and phosphorous, and a good source of iron, copper, protein, monounsaturated fat, and as previously mentioned, zinc. Snack on a quarter-cup of pumpkin seeds and you will receive 46.1% of the daily value for magnesium, 28.7% of the DV for iron, 52.0% of the DV for manganese, 24.0% of the DV for copper, 16.9% of the DV for protein, 19.7% of the DV for monounsaturated fat, and 17.1% of the DV for zinc.

Description

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk, although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells. Pumpkin seeds have a malleable, chewy texture and a subtly sweet, nutty flavor. While roasted pumpkins seeds are probably best known for their role as a perennial Halloween treat, these seeds are so delicious, and nutritious, that they can be enjoyed throughout the whole year.

Like cantaloupe, cucumber, and squash, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family. The most common genus and species name for pumpkin is Cucurbita maxima.

History

Pumpkins, and their seeds, were a celebrated food of the Native American Indians who treasured them both for their dietary and medicinal properties. The cultivation of pumpkins spread throughout the world when the European explorers, returning from their journeys, brought back many of the agricultural treasures of the New World. While pumpkin seeds are featured in the recipes of many cultures, they are a special hallmark of traditional Mexican cuisine. Pumpkin seeds have recently become more popular as research suggests that they have unique nutritional and health benefits.

Today, the leading commercial producers of pumpkins include the United States, Mexico, India and China.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Pumpkin Seeds:

While most stores sell pumpkin seeds, it is fun and easy to make your own. To do so, first remove the seeds from the pumpkin’s inner cavity and wipe them off with a paper towel if needed to remove excess pulp that may have stuck to them. Spread them out evenly on a paper bag and let them dry out overnight.

Place the seeds on a cookie sheet and lightly sprinkle them with oil and the seasonings of your choice. Bake them at 300ºF for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown, shaking the pan several times when baking so as to prevent them from burning.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Add pumpkin seeds to healthy sautéed vegetables.

Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of mixed green salads.

Grind pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley and cilantro leaves. Mix with olive oil and lemon juice for a tasty salad dressing.

Add chopped pumpkin seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal.

Add pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal raisin cookie or granola recipe.

Next time you make burgers, whether it be from vegetables, turkey or beef, add some ground pumpkin seeds.

Safety

Pumpkin seeds are not a commonly allergenic food and are not known to contain measurable amounts of goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Pumpkin Seeds, Dried
0.25 cup
186.65 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
manganese 1.04 mg 52.0 5.0 very good
magnesium 184.58 mg 46.1 4.5 very good
phosphorus 405.03 mg 40.5 3.9 very good
tryptophan 0.11 g 34.4 3.3 good
iron 5.16 mg 28.7 2.8 good
copper 0.48 mg 24.0 2.3 good
zinc 2.57 mg 17.1 1.7 good
protein 8.47 g 16.9 1.6 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Hyun T, Barrett-Connor E, Milne D. Zinc intakes and plasma concentrations in men with osteoporosis: the Rancho Bernardo Study. Am J Clin Nutr, Sept. 2004:80(3):715-721.
  • Jayaprakasam B, Seeram NP, Nair MG. Anticancer and antiinflammatory activities of cucurbitacins from Cucurbita andreana. Cancer Lett 2003 Jan 10;189(1):11-6.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2005-05-06 14:56:34
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation