Are Pumpkin Seeds Good For You?
Small in size, humble in nature; the seed that is often thrown away should truly be savoured and enjoyed! Not only are pumpkin seeds a delicious snack, but also healthy superfood.
Usually seen as a byproduct of pumpkin flesh, the health benefits of pumpkin seeds can not be ignored. Enjoy cooked, raw, toasted, whole or crushed; whichever way you like your pumpkin seeds best – this is why you should be eating more of them.
Increase Your Magnesium And Zinc.
Not consuming enough vitamins and minerals can lead to deficiencies and countless problems over time; so acquiring adequate amounts through diet is important for maintaining overall health and wellbeing.
We all need vitamins and minerals in variable amounts, but if we find that we are lacking in one department, or many; the best thing to do is to increase foods that are rich in those micronutrients.
Of course, supplementation is an option, but these can often be expensive, and also increase the risk of nutrient toxicity. Too much of anything can be bad, even nutrients!
Pumpkin seeds are full of vitamin and minerals. A single 1-ounce serving contains 42% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium and 14% of the recommended daily amount of zinc, which is very high. In fact, pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium out of any foods available!
If you believe that you run the rink of developing a magnesium or zinc deficiency, pumpkin seeds are a fantastic option to help you to boost your levels.
Full Of Antioxidants.
When people talk about superfoods or foods that are particularly beneficial to health, the word 'antioxidant' is often mentioned. What exactly is an antioxidant? What do antioxidant foods do? And why are they important?
Definition: "A substance that reduces damage due to oxygen, such as that caused by free radicals"
To simplify, an 'antioxidant' is any substance that protects the body from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Free radicals are singular atoms/electrons in the body that cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA. The damage is a result of them searching around the body for other atoms to pair up with.
Whilst free radicals are a natural by-product of normal bodily processes, such as metabolism, having too many free radicals present in the blood can have many negative repercussions.
Free radicals are a crucial part of the immune system that attack foreign bodies in the blood, including viruses; but when additional free radicals are ingested through the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, pesticides etc. The body needs something to control the surplus.
Antioxidants are this 'something'.
Antioxidants in food.
The body produces its own antioxidants in the form of enzymes, which can keep oxidative stress at bay when free radicals are at normal levels.
If too many free radicals are consumed, however, the body most certainly needs a helping hand from other antioxidant naturally found in food.
Pumpkin seeds are full of antioxidant micronutrients, which will reduce free radicals in the blood, protect the body from oxidative stress and lessen the effects of inflammation; all which are imperative for overall health.
Many foods lay claim to having anti-cancerous properties, but very few are backed by any solid scientific evidence.
Countless studies have found pumpkin seeds to be a true anti-cancerous food; with diets rich in pumpkin seeds being directly linked to reduced risk of many cancers, including, breast, lung, stomach and prostate.
The anti-cancerous characteristics of pumpkin seeds are mostly thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Improves Heart Health.
Along with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – pumpkin seeds are also full of healthy fats.
Fats are often described as bad, but this is very far from the truth. Yes, some fats are worse for you than others and should be consumed with careful consideration, but there are also fats that are incredibly healthy and important for keeping the body functioning at its best.
Healthy fats are found in a range of foods, including vegetable oils, oily fish and nuts/seeds.
What makes a fat healthy, or not healthy is the way that it interacts with the body.
Bad fats are usually categorised as either 'trans' or 'saturated' fats. These bad fats increase bad cholesterol in the blood which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Good fats, on the other hand, are unsaturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated; Full of good cholesterol which lowers bad cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
The good/healthy fats found in abundance in all nuts and seeds are incredibly important, and is one of the most valuable health benefits of pumpkin seeds.
High In Fibre.
Neglected by many, needed by all – on average, adults consume only around 50% of the recomended daily amount of fibre, which is quite a frightening statement.
Dietary fibre is the part of plant-based foods that are indigestible. Fruit, vegetables, nuts seeds and legumes are sources rich in dietary fibre.
Although fibre is not 'digestible', this doesn't mean that it simply passes through the body without effect. Dietary fibre plays many vital roles within the body on its its journey through the digestive tract.
The 2 types of dietary fibre and their health benefits.
Soluble fibre, as the name suggests is soluble in water, or dissolves into liquid, forming a gel-like substance. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, does not dissolve and instead stays completely intact when passing through the body.
Heart health - Soluble fibre attatches itself to cholesterol particles and helps to transport them out of the body. Reducing overall cholesterol levels will improve blood pressure and lower the risk of developing heart disease and other cardiovascular complications.
Weight loss - Sources of soluble fibre are usually very filling yet still low calorie, which can be especially helpful when trying to lose weight. Fibre is known for helping suppress hunger altogether and keep you feeling fuller for longer – why do you think oatmeal is such a popular breakfast choice?
Keeping regular - Constipation is a telltale sign of not consuming enough dietary fibre. Soluble fibre is incredibly absorbent, soaking up fluids as it passes through the digestive system. This absorption of liquid helps to bulk up stool and make going to the toilet far easier.
Insoluble fibre has similar health benefits to that of its soluble counterpart; what insoluble fibre is best at, however, is keeping 'things' moving.
Because of the fact that insoluble fibre does not get digested at all, and stays completely whole, it binds easily with other byproducts of digestion. This drastically increases the rate of which stool can form and pass through the system, reducing the risk of blockages and constipation.
In the process of preventing blockages and constipation, dietary fibre also prevents other gastric tract issues, such as haemorrhoids, fissures and even colon cancer.
Where do pumpkin seeds come into this equation?
Pumpkin seeds are FULL of both insoluble and soluble fibre; with 1.7g of fibre per 1-ounce serving.
Consist of 2 main parts, the husk, on the outside; and the actual seed, which is on the inside. the husk is almost completely insoluble, and the seed a mixture of both.
Often Pumpkin seeds are sold 'de-shelled' without the husk, this removes 1/3 of the goodness – so to benefit most from pumpkin seed fibre, it is best to eat them whole.
Helps Lower Blood Sugars.
It is important for sufferers of diabetes to consume healthy snacks to lower blood sugar – pumpkin seeds are a fantastic example of such snacks.
Pumpkin seeds can slow down the absorption rate of all 3 macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates). Being able to reduce the rate at which carbohydrates (sugars) are metabolised, reduces blood sugar spikes, which are necessary for diabetics to avoid.
Spikes in blood sugar are also linked to developing insulin resistance; the leading cause of thyroid disease.
How to Include More Pumpkin Seeds in your Diet.
Come Halloween time, pumpkins are everywhere; scattered over 'pick your own' patches, mounded high in supermarkets and literally on every doorstep – But what about the rest of the year?
Whilst pumpkins themselves are seasonal, once pumpkin seeds are harvested they can be kept all year round.
If it happens to be October (when pumpkins are in full swing) all the better; if not, your local supermarket or health food store should have them available January through December.
Pumpkin seeds are a versatile ingredient which can be easily added to the diet, as they pair deliciously with so many other flavours!
I like mine lightly toasted and used as a topping on baked goods, oatmeal and even some savoury dishes like pasta carbonara or smashed avocado on toast.
Its also good to remember that pumpkin seeds are equally delicious on their own straight from the pack. A small Tupperware on hand is a lifesaver if you're ever in need of a healthy lunchtime boost.
We could all benefit from adding more pumpkin seeds into our diets. Small in size, mighty in nutrients, this humble little snack is loaded with all of the right stuff.
Vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fibre are to be held accountable for pumpkin seeds superfood staus.
To get the most of pumpkin seeds they should always be eaten whole with the husk, that way you can reap from all of the benefits they have to offer.