Carving pumpkins is a great fall pastime, but think twice before you clean up the mess and throw out those pumpkin seeds!
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“Pumpkin seeds have many health benefits and make for a nutritious snack,” says registered dietitian Maxine Smith, RD.
Check out all the benefits of pumpkin seeds below, and as a bonus, some delicious, fall-flavored pumpkin seed recipes you and the whole family can enjoy!
The health benefits of pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be raw or roasted. In addition to bringing to life the flavors, aroma and texture, roasting also increases the amounts of antioxidants available. It also makes them easier to digest!
Raise your hand if you’re all-in on healthy fats! Whether you leave your pumpkin seeds shelled (just as they are, fresh out of a pumpkin-carving sesh) or opt for shell-free seeds you can buy at the grocery store, you’re in for a real treat (no tricks here!).
“Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant protein and other nutrients which can act as antioxidants to help protect against certain diseases,” says Smith.
And how about this great news for vegetarians: Pumpkin-seed protein is a very high-quality protein — comparable to soy protein — containing all of the essential amino acids you’re looking for outside of meat!
Pumpkin seeds are filled with valuable nutrients to keep you on track with a healthy diet, among these other health benefits:
Reduced risk of cancer
It’s been shown that diets rich in pumpkin seeds come with a reduced risk of developing breast, stomach, lung, prostate and colon cancers.
The lignans (plant compounds) found in pumpkin seeds get the credit here.
Improved bowel and prostate health
Several studies have shown that pumpkin seeds help to relieve an overactive bladder and prostate hyperplasia (a prostate condition that causes issues with urination).
Reduced risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and high blood sugar
This is due to the high magnesium, zinc and fatty acid content found in pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps you fall (and stay) asleep. Zinc and magnesium help here, too.
Nutrition information for pumpkin seeds
“Something to be aware of is that pumpkin seeds with shells contain much more fiber than those without. So if your stomach isn’t used to that much fiber, you may experience some issues,” says Smith. “Start off with just a few.”
Pumpkin seeds without shells
Pumpkin seeds without shells are still very healthy containing, a good amount of heart-healthy fats and protein. Many of these will have much less sodium, even if lightly salted, than ones with shells. “You do lose most of the fiber, however,” says Smith.
Pumpkin seeds with shells
Pumpkin seeds with shells are an excellent source of fiber but can have a ton of sodium — some more than the daily recommended amount of sodium in just 1 ounce. “I recommended opting for unsalted or lightly salted options,” says Smith.
How to prepare pumpkin seeds
Sure, your fresh pumpkin seeds may be surrounded by gobs of pumpkin pulp, but they’re simple to prepare for a snack! All you have to do is:
- Simply clean and dry your seeds.Add whatever seasonings you prefer and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.Bake at 250° Fahrenheit.
If you need some recipe ideas, we’ve got you covered:
1. Pumpkin Pie
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 teaspoon nutmeg1/4 teaspoon cloves1/4 teaspoon ginger1 teaspoon brown sugar
2. Hot Tamale
- 1 tablespoon chili powder1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)1 teaspoon lime zest Salt and pepper to taste
3. Italian Spice
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1 tablespoon dried Parmesan cheese1 teaspoon oreganoSalt and pepper to taste
4. Sweet & Spicy
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce1 teaspoon brown sugar
5. Hot Cocoa
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1 tablespoon raw (turbinado) sugar
6. Asian Inspiration
- 1 teaspoon orange zest1 tablespoon soy sauce 1/4 teaspoon ginger1 teaspoon honey
7. Indian Summer
- 1 teaspoon turmeric1/2 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 teaspoon ginger1 teaspoon honeySalt and pepper to taste
Calories will be higher for flavor options that include sugar or honey. If you’re constantly craving pumpkin, check out these other dietitian-approved recipes.
While they’re a great source of energy, pumpkin seeds are easy to overeat. Just as you remind your kids to not eat their Halloween candy all in one night, remind yourself to share or watch your portion size with pumpkin seeds!