Pumpkin seeds are packed with a lot of nutrients for their size, and you only need to eat a small amount to get plenty of healthy fats, as well as zinc and magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds have been linked with health benefits that include a healthier heart and prostate, as well as protection from some types of cancer.
Here are 11 scientifically-supported health benefits of pumpkin seeds.
1. Nutrient Rich
The Mexicans call pumpkin seeds “pepita”, and they are not the white, hard seeds you may have seen when you’ve carved a pumpkin for Halloween. The seeds bought from a supermarket don’t have a shell, and they are green.
Just an ounce of shelled pumpkin seeds contains around 151 calories, mostly from fat and protein. One ounce also contains 1.7 grams fiber, 5 grams carbs, vitamin K, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and copper.
They also contain antioxidants, along with a good amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, potassium, and folate.
2. High in Antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds contain carotenoids and vitamin E, which are antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and protect cells.
The high levels of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds are thought to be partly responsible for their positive health effects.
A study of pumpkin seed oil showed that it reduced inflammation in rats with arthritis, without any side effects. Other animals given an anti-inflammatory drug experienced adverse side effects.
3. May Reduce the Risk of Some Cancers
High consumption of pumpkin seeds has been linked to a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers.
An observational study showed that postmenopausal women who ate them had a reduced risk of breast cancer. Other studies linked the lignans in pumpkin seeds with playing a role in preventing and treating breast cancer.
Other test-tube studies found that pumpkin seed supplement had potential to slow down the growth of prostate cancer cells.
4. Beneficial for Prostate and Bladder Health
Pumpkin seeds could help relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a condition that causes problems with urination due to an enlarged prostate gland.
In a year-long study of over 1,400 men with BPH, the findings showed that consuming pumpkin seeds reduced the symptoms and improved the quality of life. Another study of 45 men and women showed that 10 grams of pumpkin seed extract taken daily improved urinary function.
5. High in Magnesium
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, which can be lacking in Western diets. In the US, around 79% of adults take less than the recommended daily amount of magnesium.
This mineral is needed by the body for more than 600 chemical reactions that are necessary for health, including controlling blood pressure, reducing risk of heart disease, healthy bone formation, and regulating blood sugar levels.
6. Could Improve Heart Health
The antioxidants, minerals, and fatty acids in pumpkin seeds could help keep your heart healthy.
Animal studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil could reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which are two risk factors for heart disease.
Other studies have linked increased nitric oxide generation in the body to pumpkins, and this may be partly responsible for positive effects on heart health.
Nitric oxide helps blood vessels to expand, which improves blood flow and reduces the risk of plaque growth in your arteries.
7. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Some animal studies have reported that pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin seed powder and juice can reduce blood sugar levels.
Studies have found that supplementing with pumpkin juice or seed powder reduced the blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
An observational study found that diets rich in magnesium were linked to a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes in men and a 34% lower risk in women, and pumpkin seeds contain a high amount of magnesium.
8. High in Fiber
Pumpkin seeds are rich in dietary fiber, which can promote good digestive health and a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
A 1-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds provides 1.1 grams of fiber.
9. Could Help with Male Infertility
Reduced sperm quality and increased risk of infertility in men is associated with low levels of zinc.
Pumpkin seeds contain a good deal of zinc, therefore they may improve sperm quality. One rodent study suggests that pumpkin seeds may also protect human sperm from damage by chemotherapy and autoimmune diseases.
The antioxidants and nutrients in pumpkin seeds also contribute to healthy levels of testosterone and benefit reproductive function.
10. Could Improve Sleep
Those who have trouble sleeping may want to try eating pumpkin seeds before bed. They contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid that can help you fall asleep.
1 gram of tryptophan per day is the amount thought to improve sleep, but you would need to eat a huge 7 ounces of pumpkin seeds a day to reach that amount of tryptophan!
The zinc in pumpkin seeds can also help to convert tryptophan to serotonin, which is the precursor to melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.
11. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Pumpkin seeds are easy to add to your diet. You can eat them raw or roasted, salted or unsalted, and you can add them to yogurt and smoothies.
They can be sprinkled onto salads, soups, or cereals, as well as baked in cakes and breads.
Like many seeds and nuts, pumpkin seeds contain phytic acid, which can reduce the effect of some nutrients you consume. Sprouting or soaking seeds and nuts can help reduce the phytic acid they contain, and roasting them can be effective too.