A common tradition in this region is eating pumpkin seeds. Available pre-packed everywhere you crush the outer skin with your teeth and eat the small nut inside.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc. One cup provides almost half the recommended daily allowance (RDA). More studies are needed to link the zinc in pumpkin seeds to prostate health. But it's thought that eating a handful of seeds several times a week may help keep your zinc levels optimal.
Nutritional benefits of pumpkin seeds
A 28g serving (about six seeds) contains approximately:
⦁ 128 kcal
⦁ 7g protein
⦁ 1.7g fibre
⦁ 13g fat
⦁ 190mg magnesium
⦁ 260mg potassium
⦁ 20mg choline
⦁ 2.35mcg vitamin K
⦁ 2.52mg zinc
⦁ 2.84mg iron
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 and omega-6 fatty acids. They also contain a good range of nutrients, including iron, calcium, B2, folate and beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.
What are the 6 main health benefits of pumpkin seeds?
1. May support blood sugar balance
Pumpkin seeds, together with linseed, may be helpful in preventing diabetic complications, such as high cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The hypoglycaemic properties of these seeds may help those with diabetes to better manage blood sugar levels.
2. May help to regulate 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.
3. May help you sleep better
Magnesium is needed for normal sleep regulation, so consuming pumpkin seeds, which are a good source of magnesium, may help improve sleep.
4. Heart healthy
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.
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 the ‘free radicals’ that 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.
6. May benefit bladder health
Studies have found that pumpkin seed oil, taken from pumpkin seeds, may have the potential to prevent or treat urinary disorders, however further research is still required to confirm these findings.
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.
Sources: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-pumpkin; https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pumpkin