Everything You Need To Know About Pumpkin Seeds
We all know that nuts and seeds are good for us, but did you know that pumpkin seeds are rated as one of the all-time healthiest seeds in the world? That’s right - those tiny green pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy fats, protein, and nutrients that keep your gut healthy and your body thriving. Are you keen to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about pumpkin seeds!
What Are Pumpkin Seeds?
Ok, this may seem like a bit of an obvious question, but there can be some confusion over the difference between a pumpkin and squash. The term pumpkin actually has no botanical definition and is just a name that we have given to round variations of squash such as Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita maxima. In other words, pumpkins are squashes, but not all squashes are pumpkins - confused yet? Don’t be - just think of pumpkins as round varieties of squash.
With that cleared up, the question of ‘what are pumpkin seeds?’ should really be rephrased to ‘what are squash seeds?’. So what exactly are the seeds of a pumpkin/squash?
What Are Seeds?
Seeds are embryonic plants that form during the reproductive process of flowering plants (angiosperms) and also gymnosperms, such as conifer trees. The seed is essentially a store for all of the nutrients that a baby plant will need to grow into a seedling - it’s no wonder that seeds are so nutrient-dense! Sadly, not all seeds are edible for humans, but luckily for us, pumpkin seeds are one variety that is, and they’re also easy to grow and tasty to eat.
Why Do We Eat Pumpkin Seeds?
Our ancestors were eating wild seeds for millions of years, well before plant domestication, which is thought to have begun approximately 10,000 years ago. In the early stages of human development, we ate seeds for survival, but today we get to eat them for pleasure. With so many food-choices now lining our supermarket shelves, we no longer need to eat pumpkin seeds, or any seed for that matter, to survive, and so why we eat pumpkin seeds today can be boiled down to two main reasons:
- They’re healthy and provide a variety of essential nutrients.
- They taste good!
Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional profile of pumpkin seeds and their associated health benefits.
How Nutritious Are Pumpkin Seeds?
A serving of shelled pumpkin seeds is generally suggested to be approximately one-ounce or 28 grams. In this one-ounce serving, not only do you receive almost half of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for manganese, but you also receive a massive 7g of protein, which is the equivalent of eating a large boiled egg!
(For a one-ounce serving of shelled pumpkin seeds)
- 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
What These Numbers Mean
Scanning down the list of nutrients above, it’s all too easy to overlook just how healthy pumpkin seeds really are. We tend to focus on calories, fat, and protein but disregard vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as fiber, which are also essential to our health. Below, we’ve provided a little more detail on some of these vitamins, minerals, and nutrients - take a look and then re-visit the data above to see just how amazing a single serving of pumpkin seeds really is.
Only 5% of Americans meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for fiber intake, which is 25 grams for women, and 35 grams for men. This means that 95% of Americans are fiber deficient, which increases their risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. A single serving of shelled pumpkin seeds provides 1.7g of fiber, but if you were to eat whole pumpkin seeds with their shells still on, this number jumps to a massive 5g of fiber, helping to get you well on your way to meeting your daily target.
If there’s one nutrient that needs no introduction, it’s protein. Protein is essential for all living organisms and is a key source of energy as well as a building block for the maintenance and repair of body tissue. Most of us get the majority of our protein from animal sources, but for those who are vegetarian or vegan, it is important to incorporate a number of high protein plant sources into their diet. With 7g of protein per one-ounce serving, pumpkin seeds are an easy and convenient way to bolster your protein intake.
Thanks to diet culture, many of us have been conditioned into thinking that fat is the enemy of weight loss - but not all fats are created equal. Bad fats are saturated, whereas good fats are poly-unsaturated and have a different effect on the body. Almost all of the fat content found in pumpkin seeds is poly-unsaturated, with more than 50% of this total being omega-6.
We hear a lot about vitamin C and vitamin B, but there are a number of other vitamins, such as vitamin K working hard behind the scenes to keep our bodies in good health. Vitamin K, in particular, is needed to form blood clots, and so is essential for healing and repair.
As a lesser-known mineral, many people overlook the importance of manganese in the body. We may only need a small amount of it, but without it, we cannot metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, glucose, or carbohydrates. It’s important to realize that manganese is also an essential nutrient, meaning that it cannot be made within the body or stored for future use and so must be obtained through our diets.
Not to be confused with manganese, magnesium is also an important mineral in our diets. It is used in more than 600 cellular reactions within the body and is needed for basic functions such as muscle contraction and the synthesis of DNA.
Iron deficiency is extremely common, leading to tiredness and anemia. Without sufficient iron levels, the body is unable to create new red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. As a result, people with low iron levels often feel tired, have paler skin, and may feel short of breath. On average, men need to consume approximately 8.6mg of iron a day, whereas women between the ages of 19 and 50 require almost double that at 14.8mg!
Because the body cannot make or store zinc, it is another mineral that must be derived from the food we eat. Like most minerals, zinc is used in countless ways within the body, most notably for growth, DNA synthesis, and to support immune function. Although zinc is found in a number of plant and animal-based foods, it is estimated that approximately 2 billion people are deficient in zinc worldwide due to inadequate dietary intake!
Lastly, we come to copper. Copper may only be a trace mineral, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Sufficient levels of copper are needed to support both cognitive and immune function, as well as to help with the absorption of iron and the production of melanin - the dark pigment that determines the color of your skin. Without copper, the body cannot break down iron, which will ultimately lead to anemia, low energy levels, and poor immunity.
Now that you know just how important these minerals and vitamins are within the body, you can finally appreciate just how healthy a single serving of pumpkin seeds really is!
What Else Can Pumpkin Seeds Do For You?
The delicate balance of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in pumpkin seeds will not only help you to meet your recommended daily intake but can also provide you with a number of other amazing health benefits - here are just five of them to get you started.
You’ll be consuming more antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that essentially inhibit oxidation - a chemical reaction that produces free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, speed up aging and cause illness, and so clearly, we don’t want too many of them hanging around in the body. By consuming more antioxidants, you can reduce the effects of these free radicals on your cells, ultimately slowing down signs of aging and lowering levels of inflammation.
You could reduce your risk of cancer
According to several scientific studies, eating a diet that is rich in pumpkin and pumpkin seeds can help to reduce your risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer. This is because pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are both fantastic sources of micronutrients such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, cucurbitacins, and the lignan enterolactone, which have cancer-fighting properties.
If you’re a man, then your prostate will thank you
The prostate is a gland found in the male reproductive system and it is responsible for producing part of the fluid found in semen. As men age, their prostate can become enlarged, leading to benign prostatic hyperplasia - (BPH). BPH isn’t fatal and shouldn’t be confused with prostate cancer, but it can cause problems with bladder function. The good news for men is that eating pumpkin seeds has been found to be as effective as some BPH medications, with just 10g a day helping to reduce the symptoms of BPH and to restore proper bladder function.
You’ll be feeding your good gut bacteria
In recent years, a lot of studies have shown a direct connection between the health of our gut and the health of our overall body. Because pumpkin seeds are high in insoluble dietary fiber, they are a great food for our good gut bacteria and can help to keep the digestive system in proper working order. By feeding your gut, you not only reduce your chances of constipation but can also lower your risk of heart disease, bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
You can boost your fertility
Lastly, for both men and women looking to improve their fertility, pumpkin seeds can provide a much-needed boost of zinc. Zinc is very important when it comes to fertility as it is responsible for regulating key reproductive hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and for improving sperm count.
Can Pumpkin Seeds Also Help You To Lose Weight?
Obesity levels worldwide have more than tripled in the last 50 years! Today, approximately 13% of adults are classified as obese, and 39% are overweight. As obesity rates have risen, so have the number of weight loss products on the market, but the truth is, the key to healthy weight loss doesn’t lie in shakes, pills, and fad diets, but in healthy whole-foods such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Despite being quite calorically dense, pumpkin seeds are a great weight-loss food when eaten in moderation - here are three reasons why.
They are rich in weight loss nutrients
When it comes to weight loss, there are three key essential nutrients to be aware of - protein, fiber, and unsaturated fatty acids. A single serving of pumpkin seeds in their shell provides a whopping 5g of protein, the same as a boiled egg, as well as 5g of important dietary fiber and a number of beneficial fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6. Together, these three nutrients help to make you feel fuller for longer, can grow your levels of healthy gut bacteria, and can also improve your cardiovascular health to reduce your chances of a stroke or heart attack.
You can eat them on the go
When hunger strikes on the go, more often than not, the only solution is to grab fast-food or something convenient like a chocolate bar or bag of chips. Although there’s nothing wrong with eating convenience food every now and then, it’s important to consume it in moderation because a lot of it tends to be loaded with sugar and fat. To help you on your weight loss journey, try to keep a healthier alternative stashed in your bag or even in your car so that you have something nutritious to munch on. Pumpkin seeds are a great healthy convenience food because they won’t go off quickly, don’t melt in the heat, can’t squish in the bottom of your bag, and can be eaten easily with your fingers.
Last but not least, pumpkin seeds aren’t just going to satisfy your growling stomach; they’re also going to satisfy your other senses. We eat with more than just our mouths - we also eat with our eyes, ears, nose, and even our sense of touch. Pumpkin seeds satisfy all of these senses at the same time, helping your body to register that it is eating and to give off the right queues when it is satisfied.
Tips For Eating Pumpkin Seeds For Weight Loss
Although pumpkin seeds are nutritious, they’re also calorically dense, which means it is essential to eat them in moderation if you are trying to eat in a calorie deficit. Here are some tips to help you incorporate pumpkin seeds into your weight loss diet.
Weigh out your servings
The deliciously moreish crunch of pumpkin seeds makes them easy to overeat and so it is crucial that you weigh out your servings if you are trying to track your calories. Weighing out a couple of portions of pumpkin seeds in advance and storing them in small airtight containers makes them easy to grab on the go without accidentally going over your daily calorie budget.
Sprinkle them on salads
Let’s face it - salads can quite often be incredibly boring, but they don't need to be. An easy way to jazz up your lunchtime salad is to sprinkle over a portion of pumpkin seeds which will add some interest and also some crunch. For extra flavor, why not go for a roasted and seasoned variety such as our floral lime and aromatic saffron?
Eat them in their shells
Although shelled pumpkin seeds are still a great weight-loss snack, if you can, try to find whole pumpkin seeds that are still in their hull. The hull of the pumpkin seed is less calorically dense than the green inside, meaning that you’ll actually be eating fewer calories per serving, all the while getting an extra helping of fiber to help you feel fuller for longer.
Can You Eat Too Many Pumpkin Seeds?
Once you start eating pumpkin seeds, especially the delicious roasted and seasoned varieties, it can be hard to stop - but eating too many in one go can cause some discomfort. The main side effect of eating too many pumpkin seeds is gas and bloating, which is caused by eating too much fiber in one sitting. A one-ounce serving of whole pumpkin seeds contains a massive 5g of fiber, which means if you were to accidentally eat two servings or even three in one go, then you’re fast approaching 15g of insoluble fiber in one sitting. If your body is not used to eating a lot of fiber, then eating pumpkin seeds can give your gut a bit of a workout!
Preventing Gas And Bloating When Eating Pumpkin Seeds
The easiest way to prevent gas and bloating when eating pumpkin seeds is to stick to the recommended portion size of one ounce or 28g; however, if you still find that you are experiencing some discomfort then it may be worth swapping whole pumpkin seeds to a shelled alternative or reducing your portion size further. Because roasted pumpkin seeds are often salted, it’s also advisable to drink plenty of water during and after your meal.
Could You Be Allergic To Pumpkin Seeds?
Some people are sensitive to a compound called cucurbitacin - a compound found in pumpkin flesh and pumpkin seeds. Although relatively rare compared to other food allergies such as those to nuts and sesame, a pumpkin allergy can cause a rash and, in some cases, swelling of the neck and mouth. If you experience any of these symptoms when eating pumpkin seeds then it is vital that you stop eating them immediately and book an appointment with an allergist to find out if you are having an allergic reaction.
Roasting Your Own Pumpkin Seeds At Home
If you’ve ever purchased and prepared a squash or a pumpkin at home, then you’ll know that a part of that preparation is to scoop out all the seeds. Most people tend to throw these straight in the trash, but with a little time, you could transform them into your own tasty snack.
It’s important to note here that the kind of pumpkin seeds that we sell here at Ayoub’s have been harvested specifically for their flavor and size, whereas the pumpkin and squash at most grocery stores are grown for their flesh or for decoration at Halloween. This means that the seeds you get at home are often much thinner, tougher, and smaller than those we sell - but don’t let that put you off trying them!
How to roast your own pumpkin seeds
Roasting your own pumpkin seeds is extremely easy. All you need to do is to separate them from the stringy web that surrounds them and then lay them in a single layer on a baking tray. To help them crisp up and to go nice and golden brown, drizzle them with a little olive or coconut oil before roasting in a preheated oven at either 180C for 10 minutes or 120C for 20-25 minutes. Because the seeds of store-bought pumpkins are a little tougher, it’s often best to roast them at a lower temperature for a longer time period to help them go crunchy rather than chewy. Whichever roasting time you choose, always keep a close eye on your tray as your seeds can catch and burn very quickly.
When your seeds are nicely golden brown, simply take them out of the oven. Freshly roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious as they are, but if you like a little extra seasoning, then try adding a little sugar and salt or some chili powder.
Where Can You Buy Good Quality Pumpkin Seeds?
If you’re cooking a pumpkin to eat or are carving one for decoration, then, by all means, have a go at preparing your own pumpkin seeds. If, however, you’re more of a seed connoisseur and like to eat pumpkin seeds regularly, then you can guarantee the best quality and save yourself both time and money by buying your seeds separately. Here are three places that we suggest you try.
Whether you’re looking for pumpkin seeds or a potato peeler, Amazon seems to stock virtually everything nowadays and will often appear as one of the top sponsored search results on Google. Although Amazon is still making a name for itself with its grocery offering, we have to say that the sheer number of stockists on their platform makes them a good place to browse pumpkin products. If you’re looking for pumpkin seeds to eat, then just be sure to buy edible seeds and not those designed for growing pumpkins, and remember to pay attention to verified customer reviews to help you determine their quality.
Whole Foods Market
When it comes to the grocery store chains that stock the best quality natural ingredients, Whole Foods Market is up there with some of the best. As a premium grocery outlet, Whole Foods Market pride themselves on their superior stock, though you can also expect to pay some premium prices. If it’s organic seeds you’re after, then Whole Foods’ organic range will likely satisfy your needs, and if you’re trying to reduce your waste, then some of their stores also provide self-service zero-waste sections.
Ayoub’s Dried Fruit And Nuts
And finally, we wouldn’t be writing this guide if we didn’t consider ourselves to be one of the very best places to find the highest quality pumpkin seeds. Here at Ayoub’s, we are master’s of fruit, nuts, and seeds, and believe that we have perfected the art of hand roasting these delicate ingredients to maximize their natural flavors. Unlike most grocery stores that only stock one or two types of pumpkin seeds, we sell a much wider selection of pumpkin seed products, including organic, raw whole, raw skinned, plain roasted, and an assortment of tantalizing roasted flavors such as saffron and lime, lime and pepper, and chili spice. If you live locally to one of our Ayoub’s Dried Fruit and Nuts stores, then you can pop in and try some of our delicious products for yourself, or alternatively for our customers further afield, they can be delivered to your door using our online service.
How Best To Store Your Pumpkin Seeds
Regardless of whether you have purchased them from a grocery store or roasted them yourself at home, if you aren’t going to eat your pumpkin seeds right away, then it is essential that you store them correctly to stop them from going bad.
Why do pumpkin seeds go bad?
Like other healthy nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds spoil relatively quickly due to their high concentration of omega fatty acids. When exposed to the open air, these fatty acids begin to undergo rancidification, which can leave you with rancid and nasty tasting seeds.
How to stop your pumpkin seeds from going rancid
There are three main conditions that accelerate the process of rancidification - exposure to air, exposure to moisture, and exposure to heat. With this in mind, the key to keeping your pumpkin seeds fresh for longer is to store them in a cool, dry place, ideally in an airtight container. When stored in this way, pumpkin seeds can last for up to three months, giving you plenty of time to nibble your way through your supply. tucking into a serving a day as a snack, or making a batch
Can you freeze pumpkin seeds?
Freezing your pumpkin seeds is another great way to extend their lives and help them stay fresh for a year or even longer! Simply place your pumpkin seeds in a freezer-safe bag, remove as much of the air as possible and label them with the date that they were frozen so that you know when to use them.
How To Tell If Your Pumpkin Seeds Have Gone Off
Pumpkin seeds in their original packaging that have yet to be opened should last at least until their use-by-date, if not beyond; however, if you do not know their use-by-date, then here are a few things to check.
Look for mold
Mold is an obvious indication that your pumpkin seeds have gone bad. Generally, pumpkin seeds will only start to mold if they are left exposed to moisture in the air; however, even pumpkin seeds in their original packaging can begin to mold if there’s even the tiniest hole or a rip in their packaging for moisture to get in. Take a look at your pumpkin seeds to check for any visual signs of mold, such as a white powdery coating or any green-tinged fuzzy growth in the corners.
Check for odor
If your pumpkin seeds have started to go rancid, then they will start to emit a musty and unpleasant smell. Even when opening a new bag of pumpkin seeds, it is always advisable to give them a little sniff to ensure that they smell fresh and as they should.
Trust your taste buds
Last but not least, even if you can’t see mold or smell rancidification, your taste buds will be able to detect if pumpkin seeds have started to go bad as they will taste bitter.
Three Ways To Eat More Pumpkin Seeds
Aside from storing them in the correct manner, the easiest way to stop your pumpkin seeds from going bad is to eat them quickly! Thankfully, this isn’t too hard to do when you realize how versatile pumpkin seeds are. Here are three easy ways to start adding more pumpkin seeds into your daily diet.
Simply snack on them
The best snack foods are those that can easily be eaten on the go, require no cutlery, and are both nutritious and delicious. Pumpkin seeds meet all of these requirements, not to mention even just a small serving can help to keep you feeling satiated until your next proper meal. Rather than allowing yourself to pick up unhealthy snack options on the go, portion yourself some little packs of pumpkin seeds and keep them with you on your commute to and from work, in your desk drawer, and in your bag so that you always have something healthy and nutritious to snack on when you get peckish.
Create a sprinkle station
Sprinkles are a great way to add additional flavor, texture, and nutrition to any dish - but we aren’t talking about those little colored sprinkles used for ice cream and cakes. Pumpkin seeds make a great sprinkling ingredient and can be added to a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. Set yourself up a little sprinkle station at home with a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits so that you have a variety of sprinkling options at your fingertips; then, whenever you make oatmeal, a smoothie bowl, or a salad, simply sprinkle away!
Be bold when you blend
If you’re short on time or want to get a quick hit of nutrients on the go, then a smoothie is a great option that you can drink on foot or in the car. Rather than just sticking to fruits and veggies, don’t forget that nuts and seeds make great smoothie ingredients too and will help to add healthy fats to your recipe that will help to keep you feeling full for longer. The best pumpkin seeds to use in your smoothies are the raw kind as they have a mild flavor and will blend most easily, but you can use any variety if you’re feeling adventurous.
Three Easy Pumpkin Seed Recipes
Finally, to end this guide about the wonderful pumpkin seed, we want to leave you with three super simple and easy recipes to try at home - pumpkin seed butter, pumpkin seed granola, and one for a pumpkin seed smoothie.
How To Make Pumpkin Seed Butter
Seed butter has been around for some time but has only really started to gain momentum in the last couple of years, especially as nut-free alternatives to popular nut butters like peanut and almond butter. As seed butter goes, we think that pumpkin seed butter is one of the tastiest varieties around; plus, it’s also green!
To make the pumpkin seed butter, you will need:
- 500g of shelled pumpkin seeds (approximately three cups)
- A food processor
- Before you start, take a moment to check that your pumpkin seeds are shelled and not whole. Whole pumpkin seeds will not blend into a smooth butter. The easiest way to do this is to check that your pumpkin seeds are green.
- Once you’re definitely using shelled pumpkin seeds, then all you need to do is add them to your food processor, and away you go!
- Blend your pumpkin seeds together until they are smooth, scraping down the sides of your processor as and when you need to.
- Once your pumpkin seed butter has reached your desired consistency, simply transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge.
Things to note:
Although this recipe is super simple and extremely satisfying, it can take a little time for your pumpkin seeds to release their oils and to turn into the perfect seed butter consistency. Depending on the power of your food processor, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour or longer, so do be mindful of your food processor getting too hot and turn it off periodically to allow it to cool down.
How To Make Pumpkin Seed Granola
We love this pumpkin seed granola recipe because it can be adapted to suit whatever you have available. If you haven’t got the ingredients listed below, then feel free to substitute in other dried fruits, other nuts, and even other seeds.
To make your pumpkin seed granola, you will need:
- One cup of raw pumpkin seeds
- One cup of oats
- Half a cup of raisins
- ¼ cup of coconut flakes
- ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup of maple syrup
- A drizzle of neutral oil
- A pinch of salt
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Next, combine all of your ingredients, except the dried fruit, together in a bowl and then spread out onto your baking sheet.
- Bake in your preheated oven for approximately 30-45 minutes stirring every 15 minutes to break up the clumps and ensure the mixture bakes evenly.
- Once golden brown and crunchy, remove from the oven and mix in your dried fruit.
- Allow to cool completely and then store in an airtight container.
Things to note:
If you’re using dried fruit, then it’s best to add it to your mix after it has been baked; otherwise, the sugars in the fruit can easily burn and develop an acrid taste. To add even more pumpkin flavor to this recipe, we recommend adding in some pumpkin pie spice or even mixing in a ½ cup of pumpkin puree.
How To Make A Pumpkin Smoothie
Finally, for a taste of fall in a glass, then you have to try this pumpkin spice smoothie!
Rich, creamy, and decadent, this smoothie is bursting with pumpkin flavor, and it can be made vegan by substituting the milk and yogurt for plant-based alternatives.
To make the pumpkin smoothie, you will need:
- One cup of milk of your choice
- ½ a cup of yogurt (plain or vanilla works best)
- ½ cup of pumpkin puree
- A tablespoon of pumpkin seeds + more for garnish
- Four tablespoons of maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- One whole frozen banana
- ½ cup of ice
- A dash of vanilla extract
- To make your smoothie, all you need to do is add everything except your pumpkin seeds reserved for the garnish to a blender and process until smooth.
- Serve and drink immediately topped with some additional pumpkin seeds.
Things to note:
This recipe can be adapted to suit your own tastes. If you like it sweeter, then add a little more maple syrup. If you prefer a vegan smoothie, then substitute in plant-based milk and yogurt, and for a decadent dessert option, consider topping your smoothie with whipped cream, an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, and some gently placed pumpkin seeds.