Pumpkin seeds are the flat, oval-shaped seeds of the pumpkin or squash, both types of seeds have nearly identical benefits. Pumpkin seeds are light green on the inside, but their hull is white. Most pumpkin seeds come with their shell or endosperm still attached, particularly when they are eaten after being roasted, the most common way of consuming them. They can, however, be shelled, and the inner germ can be eaten for a healthy snack with less work and chewing involved.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
The staggering health benefits of pumpkin seeds come from its unusual nutritional composition, including impressive levels of manganese, tryptophan, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, zinc, iron, and protein, as well as smaller amounts of B complex vitamins, and vitamin A. Furthermore, pumpkin seeds have phytosterols, an organic compound that also contributes to its healthy qualities.
1. Prostate Health
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), and also because pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate).
Research suggests that both pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health.
If you’re feeling wired or stressed after a long day, you can turn to pumpkin seeds to calm you down and help you get a good night’s sleep. Pumpkin seeds are rich sources of both magnesium and tryptophan, both of which are closely associated with sedation and soothing qualities that stimulate sleep. Pumpkin seeds can help your head hit the pillow in a peaceful, lasting way due to those two vital components.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
Pumpkin seed oil is full of phytoestrogens, which research shows are beneficial for preventing hypertension. When researchers fed rats a diet supplement with the oil, they found that it helped lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in just 12 weeks.
Pumpkin seeds have even been shown to eliminate seriously dangerous microbes from the body, including parasites! These seeds are no joke when it comes to keeping you healthy all the way around. Just 1/4 cup a day has been shown to be beneficial at improving immune health and also eliminating (not just preventing) various unhealthy microbes from harming the body.
Keep in mind an overall healthy diet, rich in whole, plant-based foods is a key primer for keeping unhealthy microbes away, though some specific foods like pumpkin seeds, garlic and coconut have been linked to especially impressive treatment benefits as well. Even for yeast infections like candida, pumpkin seeds have been shown to prevent yeast overgrowth, inflammation, and can improve skin conditions in those with skin-based yeast infections.
5. Anxiety Relief
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology revealed that tryptophan, an amino acid abundant in pumpkin seeds, might help alleviate anxiety. Since tryptophan is converted to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that enhances mood and promotes well-being in the brain, researchers investigated whether consuming a tryptophan rich food could boost serotonin levels and reduce anxiety symptoms.
They discovered that subjects with anxiety disorder who consumed tryptophan rich gourd seeds with carbohydrates before an anxiety test experienced greater improvements in subjective and objective measures on the Endler Multidimensional Anxiety Scale compared with those who consumed only carbohydrates.
Most of the evidence we’ve seen about pumpkin seeds and prevention or treatment of diabetes has come from animal studies. For this reason, we consider research in this area to be preliminary. However, recent studies on laboratory animals have shown the ability of ground pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed extracts, and pumpkin seed oil to improve insulin regulation in diabetic animals and to prevent some unwanted consequences of diabetes on kidney function.
Decrease in oxidative stress has played a key role in many studies that show benefits of pumpkin seeds for diabetic animals.
7. Boost Your Magnesium
That same cup of roasted pumpkin seeds also boasts 168 milligrams of magnesium, more than half of the 310 mg adult women should consume daily. The body needs magnesium for many processes, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels and blood pressure, plus making protein, bone and DNA.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that people in the United States consistently have intakes of magnesium that are lower than recommended amounts.
If you have a nut allergy, you’ll especially want to jump on board the pumpkin seed train! Pumpkin seeds and other seeds should be enjoyed since they provide beneficial fatty acids that one might miss out on when they can’t enjoy the healthy fat from nuts.
Even if you don’t have an allergy to nuts, these seeds will provide other nutrients that you won’t get in such a small serving from other foods. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of soy-free protein for those that have a soy allergy or just want to avoid it.
9. Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
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.
10. Skin, Hair, and Nails
Pumpkin seeds contain essential omega fatty acids, vitamin A, and a good blend of vitamin E to keep skin healthy, hair vibrant, and nails strong.
11. Kidney Stones
Pumpkin seeds have been connected with a reduction in toxins in the body, due to its diuretic properties, as well as the antioxidant activity. Furthermore, they stimulate circulation and increase the speed and processing of the livers and kidneys.
Uric acid and various other toxins are therefore removed from the body, which means they cannot accumulate into dangerous kidney stones or other forms, like gout and arthritis, as mentioned earlier. Pumpkin seeds promote the health of the kidneys and helps to detoxify the body from top to bottom.
12. 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.