Are pumpkin seeds healthy? Rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals including magnesium and zinc, discover what makes these seeds good for you.
What are pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are edible, flat, oval-shaped green seeds. When removed from the flesh of a pumpkin, they can be rinsed and roasted, either plain or with other flavours such as oils and spices, to create a delicious, crunchy snack.
Nutritional benefits of pumpkin seeds
They may be small, but pumpkin seeds are little powerhouses of nutrients and health benefits. Like nuts, pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein and unsaturated fats, including omega-3. They also contain a good range of nutrients including iron, selenium, calcium, B vitamins and beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.
Pumpkin seeds' biggest claim to fame is that they are an excellent natural source of magnesium and zinc. Just one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds provides:
• Almost 1mg zinc - the recommended daily allowance is 9.5mg for men and 7mg for women.
• 40mg magnesium – the recommend daily allowance is 300mg for men and 270mg for women.
Can pumpkin seeds help manage diabetes?
A 2011 animal study found that pumpkin seeds, together with linseed, may be helpful in preventing diabetic complications, such as high cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
A later study also found that pumpkin seeds do contain hypoglycaemic properties which could help those with diabetes to better manage blood sugar levels.
Read Diabetes UK's top 10 dietary tips to manage diabetes.
Can pumpkin seeds improve blood pressure?
Being an excellent source of magnesium, pumpkin seeds may help regulate blood pressure as part of a healthy diet, but more research is needed on the role magnesium plays in this area.
Discover more about how diet and lifestyle can help to lower blood pressure.
Can pumpkin seeds help you sleep better?
Magnesium is needed for normal sleep regulation and so consuming pumpkin seeds, which are a good source of magnesium, may help improve sleep.
Discover more about how to get a good night's sleep.
Are pumpkin seeds good for heart health?
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of unsaturated fats, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). There has been good evidence that eating pumpkin seeds, because of their ALA content, could well be beneficial for the heart and the prevention of cardiovascular disease as part of a balanced diet.
A 2011 study also found that pumpkin seed oil helped to improve cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women.
Learn more about what to eat for a healthy heart.
Can pumpkin seeds help protect against cancer?
While there are no single 'superfoods' that can prevent cancer and certain risk factors for cancer are unrelated to diet, there is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of antioxidants, which can help to scavenge 'free radicals' which can damage cells. One study in particular found that pumpkin seeds were associated with a significantly reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, compared to no consumption, and a second study showed that they may also help protect pre-menopausal women too.
Are pumpkin seeds good for bladder health?
A 2014 study found that pumpkin seed oil, taken from pumpkin seeds, may have the potential to prevent or treat urinary disorders. Further research is needed in this area.
Can you be allergic to pumpkin seeds?
Yes, although an allergy to pumpkin seeds is rare and they are not considered to be a highly allergenic food, unlike sesame seeds. However, if you are concerned about seed allergies always check with your GP before introducing them to your diet.
Learn more about food intolerances and allergies.
Pumpkin seed recipes
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This article was last reviewed on 1st October 2018 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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