Part of the fun of carving pumpkins is eating the pumpkin seeds after your crafty work is done! With the taste and nutrition benefits, it’s wasteful to just throw them out. And you may be wondering how to eat pumpkin seeds for a treat that beats sugary Halloween candy. Baked, boiled, shells on, shells off? We have those answers here, plus the top seven health benefits you can expect from pumpkin seeds, which may make you want to include them in your diet all year around.
The pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) is a cultivar (a plant that has been intentionally cultivated through selective breeding) of the squash plant. Bright orange, a pumpkin is a fruit, not a vegetable, with a thick shell full of seeds (pepitas) and pulp. All gourds, pumpkins, and squash are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, and all are fruits, including summertime squash varieties like zucchini. Who knew?
There are a couple of ways to eat pumpkin seeds, and dozens of different recipe flavors. Let’s try some out!
If you’re wondering how to roast raw pumpkin seeds, here’s the breakdown. Once you’ve combed the seeds from the flesh (using an actual comb if you find it more convenient) and flavored them with sugar, spice, oil, or butter, follow these instructions.
Don’t have an oven or don’t want to fire up an entire oven just for a handful of seeds? No worries, because you can toast them on your stovetop.
You don’t have to cook pumpkin seeds to make them edible. You can eat them just as they are, or combine them in other foods like:
However you enjoy eating pumpkin seeds is the right way to eat them. For example, the shells are edible, but if you prefer them without the shell, just treat them like a sunflower seed once they’re roasted, toasted, or dried: crack off the casing and just consume the inner seed.
Whether you like them sweet or savory, here are some ideas for flavors that pair well with pumpkin seeds.
Depending on how you prepare them, pumpkin seeds can be spicy and zesty, or caramelized and sweet. It’s all up to you, but any which way you flavor them, pumpkin seeds are still an incredibly healthy snack.
Pumpkin seeds are full of dietary nutrients, including vitamin K, phosphorus, manganese, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. Based on a 28-gram (1-ounce) serving, pumpkin seeds also have 1.7 grams of fiber. The carbs in pumpkin seeds? Just 5 grams per ounce. The protein content? A decent 7 grams per ounce. Here’s how all of that impacts your health.
Pumpkin seeds are full of vitamin E and other antioxidants like carotenoids that help lower damaging inflammation caused by free radicals in the body. The oxidative stress from free radicals has a known hand in many chronic diseases, including arthritis, which can be helped by the application of pumpkin seed oil.
Inflammation has a hand in cancer risk factors as well, and studies have shown that diets which include pumpkin seeds are associated with a reduced risk of lung, stomach, breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Further studies note that eating pumpkin seeds may afford postmenopausal women a decreased risk of breast cancer, and that the lignans in the seeds may also help treat breast cancer, as well as slow the growth and progression of prostate cancer cells.
Speaking of prostate health, pumpkin seeds have data showing they may help alleviate symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which enlarges the prostate and interferes with comfortable urination. Amongst both men and women, 10 grams of pumpkin seed extract each day can help improve the urinary function of those with overactive bladders.
Due to the antioxidants, zinc, magnesium, and fatty acids, pumpkin seeds contribute significantly to heart health. Animal studies show that pumpkin seed oil can help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two huge risk factors in the development of heart disease. One study on postmenopausal women found that supplementing with pumpkin seed oil reduced diastolic blood pressure by 7% and increased “good” HDL cholesterol numbers by 16%.
The dietary fiber in pumpkin seeds is 1.7 grams per 1-ounce serving, a valuable contribution to your digestive health. Getting a proper amount of fiber helps prevent constipation and diarrhea by making sure your waste is both bulky enough and moist enough to move comfortably and regularly through your body. Studies show that high-fiber diets can help reduce the risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes—it’s that important to our health.
The magnesium content in pumpkin seeds helps control blood pressure, reduce heart disease, regulate blood sugar levels, and form and maintain strong, healthy bones. Magnesium plays a role in over 600 chemical interactions in your body, and nearly 80% of adults in the United States get below the daily recommended amount of this mineral or are magnesium deficient.
Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, which most people know is naturally found in Thanksgiving turkey. But don’t forget, if you make a pumpkin pie from scratch for your holiday table, the pumpkin seeds also have tryptophan. It won’t knock you out like a pharmaceutical sleep aid, but the amino acid tryptophan converts to serotonin (the happy hormone) and then to melatonin (the sleepy hormone) once it’s ingested. Studies show that just 1 gram of tryptophan each day can enhance your sleep.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of important and too-often missing nutrients in our daily diets. They’re easy to adapt to your own personal tastes and easy to include in dozens of other recipes. From small seeds to giant pumpkin seeds, shelled or unshelled, roasted or toasted or raw, there’s almost no wrong way to eat a pumpkin seed, as long as you enjoy it.