Being on a diet is sometimes difficult and requires a lot of self control. But if we discover some delicious snack that doubles as a phenomenal health food, won’t that be amazing? If you are wondering what could be the best substitute, look no further. Pumpkin seeds are your savior.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are the edible kernels of pumpkin fruit. Pumpkin is a squash like gourd, which belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family. The fruit is allowed to mature completely to obtain good quality pumpkin seeds. Each fruit contains around 500 creamy white seeds. The whole seed is semi flat and has an oval shape with a conical tip.
They are cultivated as a major oil seed crop in Austria and Hungary. The seeds have a creamy flavor and are used widely in the preparation of savory dishes and snacks.
Pumpkin seed is a nutritional powerhouse wrapped in a small package. It has a wide variety of nutrients, ranging from magnesium to manganese to copper and zinc. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of plant based omega 3 fatty acids. It also contains plant compounds like antioxidants and phytosterol. The kernels are a rich source of B complex group of vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. It is an excellent source of protein as well. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds provides half of the recommended amount of magnesium.
These delicious seeds are quite high in calories. 100 grams of serving contains 559 calories. The high concentration of calories in this food comes from its protein and fat content.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds:
1. Neuron health:
Pumpkin seeds are highly essential for the functioning of the nervous system. It helps to produce GABA, an anti-stress neurochemical in the brain, nervous irritability and other mental conditions.
2. Prostate health:
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent natural food for men. The high zinc content in pumpkin seeds helps to prevent prostate cancer. Pumpkin seed extracts and oil can help to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition in which the prostate enlarges. Pumpkin seeds also have DHEA (Di hydro epi-androstenedione), which helps to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Pumpkin seeds improve the insulin regulation and prevent the diabetic complication by decreasing oxidative stress. The seeds are high in easily digestible protein that stabilize the blood sugar. The phytochemical compounds present in pumpkin seed oil can also prevent diabetic nephropathy.
4. For postmenopausal women:
Pumpkin seed is rich in phytoestrogen, which helps to decrease hot flashes, cramps, headache and other menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women.
5. Heart health:
Pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy fats, fiber and antioxidant that are beneficial for the heart. The nuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that help to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in the blood. It also helps to prevent coronary artery diseases by favoring healthy lipid profile. Magnesium present in the pumpkin seed helps to prevent sudden cardiac arrest, stroke and heart attack. It also regulates the blood pressure levels.
6. Restful Sleep:
Serotonin is a neurochemical, commonly called as nature’s sleeping pill. Pumpkin seeds are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the body, ensuring a restful sleep. Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds before going to bed will provide the tryptophan needed for the production of melatonin and serotonin, thereby promoting a restful sleep.
7. Anti-inflammatory benefits:
Pumpkin seed oil is very beneficial in exhibiting anti-inflammatory effects. It works well as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat arthritis. Massage your joints with pumpkin seed oil for instant relief.
8. Immune system:
The seeds are high in antioxidants and phytochemicals that regulate the immune system and decrease the possibility of viral infections like cold, flu , fatigue and other diseases.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent iron source for the vegetarians. One 30 grams serving provides 20 to 30% of the daily recommended value. A deficiency in iron can lead to anemia.
10. Vitamin E:
Pumpkin skin is one of the best sources of Vitamin E. A 100 grams serving provides 237% of the recommended daily amount. It helps to maintain the integrity of the mucus membranes by protecting from the harmful free radicals.
Raw Pumpkin Seeds:
Pumpkin seeds need to be eaten raw in order to preserve the healthy fats present in it. While purchasing raw pumpkin seeds, make sure they smell fresh and not musty. A stale and musty smell indicates rancidity or the presence of fungal mycotoxins. While buying raw pumpkin seeds, look for cream to white colored, uniform sized and compact seeds. Avoid thin, small sized and shriveled pumpkin seeds. Organic pumpkin seeds are recommended over regular pumpkin seeds.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
You can also roast the pumpkin seeds to preserve the essential oil found in the pumpkin seeds. The seeds are toasted and flavored with lemon, salt and chili pepper. Place the seeds on a baking sheet and roast for about 170 degrees or 25 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Toss the seeds with salt and enjoy.
Some people may have allergic reactions with excess consumption of pumpkin seeds. The reactions occur due to antigenic cross-reaction with other seeds and nuts. Some common reactions include hot flashes, stomachache or headache. People with series of allergic reaction to seeds need to observe caution.
Recipe Using Pumpkin Seeds:
Whole and hulled pumpkin seeds are used in a variety of recipes. They are one of the major ingredients in Mexican mole sauce. It is used in the preparation of granola bars, cookies, breads, casseroles and baked goods. You can also sprinkle them over salads and pastas. Pumpkin seed oil is also used as a salad dressing along with vinegar, salt and garlic.
Sweet Pumpkin Seeds Recipe:
- 2 cups of raw, full pumpkin seed
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- ½ cup of white sugar
- 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
- Wash the seeds thoroughly and dry them.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for 3 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and leave it aside.
- Toss the pumpkin seeds in melted butter and pour them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and toss well.
- Bake the seeds for five minutes and remove from the oven. Sprinkle another coating of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder and mix well. Bake for another five minutes. Then sprinkle the remaining sugar and cinnamon powder and bake for 10 minutes.
- Let the seeds cool and serve.
If you look around there will be many such simple and yummy recipes which can help you shed weight without compromising on taste. Looking forward to you sharing your experience and special recipes with us here.