Fall is fast approaching and some of your favorite activities during the holidays may be indulging in autumn flavors, such as sweet potato, cinnamon and pumpkin! Now, you have the perfect excuse to indulge a little bit more. Pumpkin is not only best used for carving out creative Halloween designs or even just for pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving. Although fun and yummy in these forms, pumpkin seeds may actually offer you plenty of nutritional benefits that you may have not known about. Check out some new reasons to add pumpkin seeds to your grocery list this fall.
Although we may have just become hip to all of the health benefits that pumpkin seeds have to offer, Native Americans have known and eaten the seeds for both their nutritional value and medicinal purposes as well. They were heavily cultivated after European settlers brought them back from the “New World” and are now most popularly grown in Mexico, United States, India and China.
As you may know, pumpkins belong to the gourd family and are best when they are in season around the fall. This is why they are so plentiful at that time of the year and tend to represent harvest and the fall season. Pumpkin seeds themselves are also called pepitas and are usually flat and dark green, although some of them have a lighter colored casing.
You can find pumpkin seeds in many stores, and they can even be bought in bulk. Just make sure that they are fresh and smell them first if possible, to make sure that they are not rancid. When you store them at home, put them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for a couple of months.
One of the main elements found in pumpkin seeds is manganese, making up about 73% of your daily recommended value. Some other top nutrients found are tryptophan, magnesium and phosphorous, which give you 53%, 47% and 39% respectively. As with some other plant seeds, pumpkin seeds also give off a good amount of protein, stacking up to almost 20% of your daily value per serving. Other elements include copper, zinc and iron, so as you can see, this tiny seed is packed with an assortment of nutrients.
Prostate Health: One great health benefit of pumpkin seeds is that they have been found to prevent the enlargement of the male prostate. This is quite a common health risk for those men over the age of 50. Compounds in the seeds appear to block the testosterone and DHT uptake that usually causes the prostate to become enlarged. For this health risk, the pumpkin seed oil is the key source and the amount of oil you would get from eating an average portion of seeds may not allow you to reap the benefits. Not to worry though, because pumpkin seed oil extract can be found in supplement stores. Meanwhile, the high amount of Zinc may also be useful to prostate health as some studies have shown an association with the mineral and a healthy prostate.
Men’s Bone Health: The zinc found in pumpkin seeds has also been associated with another area of men’s health, which is their bone density. Most people think of osteoporosis as being a concern of post-menopausal women, however men also have issues with losing bone mass and density as they reach over the age of 50. Therefore, men in this age range have even more reason to chomp down on these delicious seeds.
Arthritis: Interestingly, studies have shown that the nutrients in pumpkin seeds may act as anti-inflammatory agents, which is helpful for those who suffer from arthritis. In fact, they have been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs that have been used for a similar purpose and they are preferred by some, due to the fact that they are effective, without having the additional side effects of comparable drugs.
Lower Cholesterol: Another great benefit comes with the phytosterol element found in pumpkin seeds. This element, which is found in other plants, has been shown to lower levels of blood cholesterol, while also boosting the immune system and helping to prevent certain cancers.
Although pumpkin seeds are not a common food allergy, there is always the possibility, so be aware and take precautions, especially if you have other existing seed, nut, or plant-based allergies. People with allergies in the Anacardiaceae family (mangos, pistachios and cashew nuts) may be most likely to experience a reaction, so keep this in mind as well.
So as fall is nearing and you begin to take out your sweaters, scarves and boots, also remember to take advantage of some of the natural fall harvest. Pumpkins will be plentiful so make use of the whole gourd, including its seeds and profit from some of their health benefits.