Pepitas; that’s the Spanish word for pumpkin seeds. Loosely translated, it means little seed of squash. But don’t let the size fool you. The pumpkin seed might be small, but it is highly effective when it comes to keeping your body in good shape.
Every inch of it is laced with healthy goodness. In fact, pepitas are reputed to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. This is no myth. Neither is it based on conjecture nor hearsay. In fact, there are several health studies to back our claims.
So, when we say pumpkin seeds are amazing for your health, we mean it. Here are 10 proven health benefits of these small-but-mighty pepitas.
10 Reasons to Eat Pumpkin Seeds Year-Round
1. A powerhouse of nutrients
Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious. They contain substantial amounts of protein, vitamin K, vitamin B9, and riboflavin. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), they are also abundant sources of fatty acids. They provide the body with the energy it sorely needs in terms of calories. And yes, we mean the good kind of calories.
If you’re suffering from deficiencies in any of the essential minerals, just add these seeds to your daily diet. They are rich in magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and phosphorous. Keeping your heart healthy and your bones strong are just a few of the benefits of these minerals.
2. Pumpkin seeds boost your immune system
Ever heard of the term ‘free radicals’? They’re unstable compounds in the body that bond with your cells and damage them. Free radicals enter our body from several sources; the environment (air pollution), our habits and lifestyle (smoking, regular alcohol intake), infections, and even high blood sugar levels among others. They break down your body gradually, damage your DNA, lower your immune system, and make you susceptible to diseases.
Enter antioxidants; molecules that neutralize the effect of free radicals. Antioxidants bind with these free radicals and prevent them from bonding with and subsequently harming your cells. Research has proven that pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants. They contain beta-carotene, vitamin E, and other carotenoids, making them just what your immune system needs. Eating these seeds would boost your immune system and reduce your chances of falling sick.
3. Breast cancer, begone!
When your DNA is damaged, it increases your susceptibility to cancer. To prevent DNA damage by free radicals, your body must have enough antioxidants. As we’ve established, pumpkin seeds are high on these antioxidants. When you eat them, you reduce the risk of having cancer.
In 2012, the German Cancer Research Center carried out a case-control study to determine if there was a correlation between breast cancer and pumpkin seeds. Postmenopausal women were the test subjects. The results of the study proved that increased consumption of diets rich in pumpkin seeds reduced the risk of breast cancer in women.
4. Pumpkin seeds work wonders for men too
The cancer-reducing effect of the seed is not restricted to the fairer sex. Studies have shown that it also helps improve the health of the prostate, prevent prostate cancer, and reduce symptoms of prostate enlargement (BPH).
It is also reputed to improve the quality of sperm. How? Research has shown that low sperm count and/or reduced sperm quality are sometimes caused by low zinc levels in the body. Regularly eating pumpkin seeds would help combat the zinc deficiency in your body which will, in turn, help improve sperm quality. According to a study carried out on male mice, the nutrients in the oil extracted from pumpkin seeds could also help protect your sperm from the effects of chemotherapy and increase your sperm count.
5. They reduce your chances of having diabetes
Another benefit of pumpkin seeds is the fact that they reduce blood sugar levels. Thus, if you eat meals enriched with pumpkin seeds on a regular basis, the chances of you suffering from diabetes reduce drastically. In a study carried out in 2010, it was discovered that a diet of flax and pumpkin seeds helped to reduce diabetic complications in adult rats.
Another experiment was carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health. Here, the magnesium intake of 127,932 people, comprising both males and females, was monitored for a number of years. Those who ate magnesium-rich foods such as pumpkin seeds were discovered to have a lower risk of suffering from Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency in magnesium may affect insulin production in the body but pumpkin seeds help fight that.
6. They keep your heart healthy
The presence of free radicals in your body with insufficient antioxidants to balance the mix could result in cell damage, lower your immunity, and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Pumpkin seeds provide your body with more than enough antioxidants to ensure your heart remains healthy.
Additionally, these seeds have high fiber content. Dietary fiber has been proven to lower the risk of heart diseases. It also helps to prevent diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and obesity.
7. Perfect for reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels
In a study carried out in 2000, rats suffering from hypertension were fed pumpkin seed oil. Over 4 weeks later, their blood pressure had dropped to a more appropriate level. The magnesium and natural antioxidants in pumpkin seeds were responsible for regulating the blood pressure of the rats.
In a similar study, pumpkin seed oil was administered to rabbits with high cholesterol levels for a period of 3 weeks and there was a marked improvement in their health.
8. Pumpkin seeds help in weight loss
This is because they are rich in fiber. Fiber aids easy digestion and also keeps you feeling full for a while after eating. This reduces the frequency of your meals and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
9. They help prevent insomnia
Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that stimulates sleep. The zinc in the seed also helps the body to convert this acid into melatonin and serotonin, hormones which help to regulate your sleep cycle and ensure you get a good night’s rest every day.
Studies have also shown that magnesium improves the quality of sleep, stabilizes your mood, and helps you sleep on time. Patients suffering from sleep disorders such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) are usually encouraged by doctors to eat magnesium-rich meals and also take magnesium and iron supplements to help them sleep better.
10. No more problems with your bladder
Do you have an overactive bladder or a urinary disorder? Pumpkin seeds can help relieve you of the symptoms. A study carried out on 45 persons fed with pumpkin seed oil for 12 weeks proved its effectiveness in treating urinary dysfunctions, probably due to its high zinc content.
How Can I Use Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are indisputably a healthy addition to your diet and what’s more, you can easily incorporate them into your meals. Here are the top 10 ways you can enjoy the benefits of pumpkin seeds:
1. Make a dip to eat with tortillas and chips.
2. Blend the seeds until they become smooth. And voila, you have your very own pumpkin seed butter which can be used in your sandwiches. Or, spread it on your morning toast.
3. Make homemade granola bars with dried fruit, a couple of nuts and yeah, pumpkin seeds.
4. They can be used for baking bread, cakes, and even cookies.
5. They can be also be used in soups and sauces.
6. You can add them to your smoothies and Greek yogurt.
7. Sprinkle them on your cereals and oatmeal.
8. Use them to colorfully garnish your salads. Plus, they are quite crunchy!
9. Add them to your rice pudding and guacamole, hummus, or my favorite–Tex Mex Hummus.
10. Or simply snack on them. Yes, the seeds can be eaten alone either in its raw state or roasted with different seasonings.
The Bottom Line on Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds, Pepitas, are wholesome, delicious, and surprisingly addictive. But, that’s ok, as you’ll enjoy incredible health benefits from adding them to your diet. Snack on!