‘Tis the season for spooky, ghostly, shadowy, flickering ghouls and goblins. Costumes, trick or treating, and pumpkin carving activities dot the neighborhoods. While carving out the bog orange pumpkin, don’t forget to save the seeds. Best of all, because pumpkin seeds are highly portable and require no refrigeration, they make an excellent snack to keep with you whenever you’re on the go, or they can be used as a quick anytime snack at home, too.
1. One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is vitally important to the body’s physiological functions. Magnesium helps create ATP (adenosine triphospate, the energy molecules of your body). It helps the synthesis of RNA and DNA, the pumping of your heart, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of your blood vessels, and proper bowel function. Magnesium helps control your blood pressure and aids in preventing cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke. An estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in this important mineral.
2. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc (one ounce contains more than 2 mg of this beneficial mineral). Zinc helps cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function. Many people are deficient in zinc due to mineral-depleted soils, drug effects, plant-based diets, and other diets high in grain. This deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, acne, low birth weight babies, learning problems and poor school performance in children.
3. Raw nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The body needs need ALA, however, ALA has to be converted by your body into the far more essential omega-3 fats EPA and DHA — by an enzyme in which the vast majority of us have impaired by high insulin levels. While pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of ALA, it is essential to get some omega-3 fats from sources, such as krill oil, salmon, mackerel, or fish oil supplements.
4. Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men’s health. This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health (where it is found in the highest concentrations in the body). Pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate). Research suggests that both pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin seed oil used in combination with saw palmetto may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health.
5. Animal studies suggest that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
6. Pumpkin seed oil is rich in natural phytoestrogens and studies suggest it may lead to a significant increase in good “HDL” cholesterol along with decreases in blood pressure, hot flashes, headaches, joint pains and other menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women.
7. Pumpkin seeds, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers, may provide benefits for heart and liver health, particularly when mixed with flax seeds.
8. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid the body converts into serotonin, which in turn is converted into melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” Eating pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed, along with a carbohydrate like a small piece of fruit, may be especially beneficial for providing your body the tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production to help promote a restful night’s sleep.
9. Pumpkin seed oil has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. One animal study even found it worked as well as the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in treating arthritis, but without the side effects.
Pumpkin seeds are healthiest when eaten raw, but they are also delicious lightly sautéed with a little salt and pepper. Organic seeds are best since they will be pesticide and contaminant free. Make sure bulk bin offerings smell fresh and are whole to prevent fungal contamination.