Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepita in North America, are the edible seeds from pumpkins and some other squash varieties. Typically flat and oval-shaped, they consist of an edible white outer husk which encases a green-tinted seed within and can be eaten either shelled or whole. Like most seeds, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses and contain many essential nutrients that can provide significant health benefits when eaten regularly.
Here’s a quick but comprehensive guide to the nutritional makeup of pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin Seeds - A Nutritional Breakdown
A one-ounce (28 gram) serving of shelled pumpkin seeds without their husk contains the following:
- 151 calories
- 1.7g of fiber
- 5g of carbohydrate
- 7g of protein
- 13g of fat (6 of which are omega-6’s)
- 18% of the RDI for vitamin K
- 42% of the RDI for manganese
- 37% of the RDI for magnesium
- 23% of the RDI for iron
- 14% of the RDI for zinc
- 19% of the RDI for copper
As you can see, a small serving of these seeds packs a real nutritional punch, providing a significant portion of the recommended intake for many essential vitamins and minerals and containing the same amount of protein as the average egg!
What These Nutrients Do
It’s all well and good knowing that pumpkin seeds are good for you, but it’s even better when you know how only eating a serving a day can be benefiting your body. Here’s what some of these nutrients do for you.
Dietary fiber, like that found in pumpkin seeds, is crucial for a healthy digestive system. Aside from relieving constipation, fiber also helps you maintain a healthy weight and can lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and developing certain types of cancer.
Protein is essential for all living organisms. It’s a key source of energy but is also crucial for the repair and maintenance of body tissue, hormone balance, and the creation of antibodies in your immune system.
Most of us have been conditioned to believe that fat is bad, but the majority of plant fats are poly-unsaturated and have a different effect on the body. Omega-6 forms more than 50% of the total fat content in pumpkin seeds and is a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are needed by the body’s cells in order for them to work.
Vitamin K is needed for your blood to clot and is essential for healing. There is also evidence to suggest that your body needs vitamin K to maintain healthy bones.
Manganese is a mineral and considered essential because the body needs it to function correctly and does not produce it for itself. The body only needs a tiny amount of manganese, but it cannot metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, glucose, or carbohydrates without it.
Like manganese, magnesium is a mineral; in fact, it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Involved in more than 600 cellular reactions, magnesium is needed for everything from making DNA to causing your muscles to contract. Despite its obvious importance in the body, a large portion of people do not consume their daily requirement of magnesium and so could benefit from a healthy portion of pumpkin seeds.
Iron deficiency is often associated with anemia and tiredness. Without sufficient iron, the body cannot make enough new red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Men over 18 need approximately 8.7mg of iron a day, whereas women of menstruation age between 19-50 need 14.8mg a day!
Zinc is another essential mineral that can only be obtained through the food we eat. Needed for gene expression, immune function, protein synthesis, healing, and the creation of DNA, it has a very vital role to play, and so it is crucial that we get a constant supply through our diet.
Like zinc, copper must also be obtained through our diet, but it is relatively abundant and can be found in a variety of foods, including liver, oysters, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate. With iron, copper is needed for the creation of new red blood cells and is also needed to maintain healthy bones and nerves.
Are whole pumpkin seeds more nutritious?
The short answer to this question is yes. Whole pumpkin seeds contain more than twice the fiber (5g) per one-ounce serving than shelled ones and have a little more zinc, magnesium, and copper. That being said, if you were to measure your pumpkin seeds in cups rather than in weight, then the same serving would be less nutritionally dense because the shells increase the overall size of the pumpkin seeds, and so you end up eating less of them overall.