Don’t Toss Your Pumpkin Seeds. Here’s a List of Their Impressive Health Benefits
Image Source: Getty / Laurie Ambrose
From pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin pie, pumpkin gets a lot of attention, especially during the fall. But let’s not forget one of the unsung heroes of the season (at least when it comes to nutrition): pumpkin seeds.
What you might not realize is that there are a few different varieties of pumpkin seeds. Green pumpkin seeds (shown below), also known as pepitas, are the hulled seeds of certain varieties of pumpkins and are typically flat and oval in shape. They’re rich in antioxidants and a great source of fiber, protein, and various beneficial minerals.
On the other hand, “scoop” seeds (shown above) refer to the seeds you scoop out from most pumpkin varieties. These seeds are usually encased in a white shell that is slightly curved and round. While they have a similar nutritional profile to green pumpkin seeds, they require a bit more work to consume if you prefer to eat them shelled. But if you enjoy eating them as-is after they’re roasted, then they can be an easy-breezy snack to enjoy, too.
Pumpkin Seeds Nutrition
Pumpkin seeds, both green pepitas and scooped seeds, are nutritional powerhouses. They’re packed with essential minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc, and are a natural source of plant-based protein and fiber, making them a satiating addition to your diet.
While both pepitas and scoop seeds share a similar nutrient profile, there are slight differences that, at the end of the day, won’t impact your health immensely if you choose one over the other. Pepitas, having no hull, are easier for your body to digest, allowing quicker absorption of the nutrients they contain.
Here are the nutrition facts for one ounce of “scoop” pumpkin seeds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture:
- Calories: 158
- Protein: 8.6 g
- Fat: 14 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Fiber: 1.7 g
- Calcium: 13 mg
- Iron: 2.5 mg
- Magnesium: 168 mg
- Zinc: 2.2 mg
And here is what you get when you eat one ounce of pepitas, per the USDA:
- Calories: 160
- Protein: 8 g
- Fat: 14 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Calcium: 0 mg
- Iron: 2.7 mg
- Magnesium: 160 mg
- Zinc: 2 mg
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
“Pumpkin seeds pack a lot of nutritional punch in a small volume, [as they’re] rich in micronutrients including magnesium, zinc, and antioxidant vitamin E,” says Hailey Crean, MS, RD, CDCES, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, providing more than 40 percent of the Daily Value in a quarter cup, Crean says. “According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (a study that assesses the health and nutritional status of people in the United States), 48 percent of Americans of all ages do not consume enough magnesium in their diets”. Magnesium plays an important role in the regulation of blood sugar and blood pressure and is necessary for more than 300 reactions in the body, she explains.
Thanks to their magnesium content, pumpkin seeds may also contribute to muscle and bone recovery and metabolism, says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, sports and fitness registered dietitian. She often recommends pumpkin seeds to athletes and active individuals due to their protein and iron content, too. “A one-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds offers eight grams of protein, making them perfect as a topping to boost protein intake when eating oats, a salad, or a grain bowl,” she says. “Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of iron, which is important for energy metabolism and the most common deficiency in women and the active population.”
The antioxidants found in pumpkin seeds also play a significant role in maintaining our overall health. These powerful compounds help to fight off damaging free radicals, support skin health, and may even have anti-cancer properties. In general, pumpkin seeds are a heart-healthy choice and may support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, Crean adds.
Bottom line? Pumpkin seeds have some pretty impressive health benefits.
Are There Any Risks to Eating Pumpkin Seeds?
While pumpkin seeds are generally safe and packed with nutrients, they may pose certain risks for some individuals. For instance, those with allergies to pumpkin seeds may experience symptoms like rash, hives, or difficulty breathing. Additionally, since pumpkin seeds are high in fiber, consuming them excessively may lead to digestive discomfort, such as bloating and gas. Lastly, pumpkin seeds are calorie-dense, so moderation is key to avoiding excessive calorie intake.
So, Are Pumpkin Seeds Good For You?
Pumpkin seeds are indeed good for you! They are a rich source of antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium, and many other nutrients. The shell of the pumpkin seed is a rich source of fiber, promoting a healthy digestive system, and they contain a good amount of healthy fats, which are beneficial for heart health.