‘Tis the season when whatever healthy eating habits we may have established over the year go out the window and are dismissed until January’s resolutions come around. It’s good to know going into this season that there are some snacks that are good for us now and the whole year through. Pumpkin seeds are considered to be nutritional powerhouses that are rich in numerous nutrients including the ever-important minerals, magnesium, copper, and zinc. They are also a healthy, low-fat source of protein that can be particularly helpful for vegetarians. Because of their nutritional value, these seasonal seeds are considered useful in preventing numerous diseases.
Because of their magnesium, just one-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds help the pumping of your heart and relaxation of your blood vessels. The mineral also serves for stronger bones and teeth, and proper bowel function. By helping to lower blood pressure, the magnesium in these seeds is believed to help prevent heart attack and stroke. Because of their zinc, just one ounce of the seeds will help with cell growth, mood, sense of taste and smell, regular sleep, insulin regulation, male sex function, and boosting your immune system. Deficiencies in zinc have been linked to increased colds/flu, chronic fatigue, depression, and learning problems in kids. Zinc is also very important in preventing and possibly even treating prostate problems. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3’s, the essential nutrient most of us are deficient in. The seeds are packed full of anti-oxidants that reduce inflammation but also can help improve insulin regulation and diabetic complications. This anti-inflammatory effect has even been found to work as well as the drug Indomethacin in treating arthritis. Some studies have shown that the phytoestrogens found in the seeds increase the good (HDL) cholesterol. When this is coupled with the decrease in blood pressure, hot flashes and headaches, the seeds have been found to be a valuable tool for postmenopausal women. Similar to turkey meat, pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan which helps to increase serotonin and melatonin that will help promote proper sleep. Eat these seeds a few hours before bed and see if sleep is improved.
Ideally, you would eat the seeds raw and organic in order to reap the benefits of the healthy fats found inside. Some people will not like the taste of the raw seeds. In these cases, the seeds can be soaked and then dried or they can be run through a dehydrator. This should make them palatable. The most popular way to consume pumpkin seeds is roasted. However, to preserve the nutrients and enzymes that provide the health benefits, do not roast above 170 degrees F and limit cooking to just 15-20 minutes. These seeds do not require refrigeration and can be taken with you anyplace for a quick snack. Give them a try and let me know what you think!