About three years ago, in an attempt to give a virtual high-five to anyone else hip to the petite punch of pepitas, this writer posted to Facebook: “Pumpkin seeds. That is all.” It started off as just a sweet, nutty snack and turned into an obsession as I began adding them to my salads, homemade granola, and crusted tofu. Little did I know at the time how much these little guys were doing for me and my body behind the scenes. A great source of vitamins K, E, and the B group (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 and folates) and a significant source of protein, these green globules can improve your health in big ways. Native of the Americas, they have been used as natural treatment for tapeworms and other parasites, are nonallergenic, and can boost your health in so many ways. Read on to find out how incorporating them into your meals regularly can do your body good.
This macro mineral is essential for so many important functions in the body: proper muscle function, bone formation, food metabolism, synthesizing fatty acids and proteins, and the transmission of nerve impulses. If our magnesium levels are low, we are more prone to headaches, low blood sugar, constipation, insomnia, lack of energy, or finding ourselves in just a general bad mood. Studies have linked high levels of magnesium intake to greater bone density, showing a decreased risk for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Plus, by consuming 100 milligrams of magnesium each day, you lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 15 percent as well as improve heart health and relieve anxiety. Lucky for us, pumpkin seeds offer 74 milligrams of this magic stuff in every ounce.
Speaking of osteoporosis, pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc. A zinc-deficient diet has been linked to higher rates of osteoporosis. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that followed 400 men ages 45 to 92 found a correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral, and osteoporosis at the hip and spine. Other benefits of healthy zinc consumption (8mg for adult women, 11mg for adult men and pregnant women): improved immune health, clearer skin, as well as thicker, more lustrous hair and nails.
Fill up on Fiber
Considering the fact that many Americans struggle to get enough fiber in their diet, that 1 oz. mentioned above will also serve up about 17 to 26 percent of your daily fiber needs. Eat the whole seed, shell and all, for the most fibrous benefits (shelled kernels will only offer about 6 to 9 percent of your daily intake). While aiding in digestion and elimination, the fiber in pumpkin seeds also helps to lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.
While rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that help combat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, and migraines, pumpkin seeds also contain phytosterols. These compounds have been shown to help remove arterial residues of fat and LDL cholesterol—aka “bad” cholesterol—found in plaque, the stuff that clogs up arteries that increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
A rich source of tryptophan, that amino acid found in turkey that has been blamed for inducing food comas nationwide after a Thanksgiving feast, the body converts it into serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer, and melatonin, which oversees your daily sleep-wake cycles. If you are prone to anxiety or sleepless nights and looking for a natural remedy, incorporating pumpkin seeds into your diet as an evening snack could help boost your serotonin and melatonin levels to help you destress and sleep better.
These seeds have proven to be the best source of iron in a plant-based diet next to beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas. Iron is a vital trace mineral that is part of the protein known as hemoglobin, which is needed to maintain the health of your red blood cells and distribute oxygen throughout the body. It is the most common nutrient deficiency; when we lack the proper amount needed in our diet, we are left feeling tired both physically and mentally. Regularly consuming pumpkin seeds is just one natural way to make sure we get the iron our body needs.