We’re barely out of summer, but here in the Northeast, the cold nights, shorter days and changing leaves are already sneaking up on us.
And if the supermarket shelves are any measure, Halloween is just around the corner
Time to talk pumpkins, I guess.
Pumpkin seeds, to be specific.
When I was a kid, we used to go to the corner candy store and buy little red boxes of pumpkin seeds. We would pop them by the handful and suck the thick layer of salt off of the shells until our extreme thirst made us stop and guzzle some water or other drink.
Knowing what I know today about salt, I’d opt for the natural, unsalted variety. (Don’t get me wrong — salt is an important part of your diet, but most of us get way too much.)
And anyway, pumpkin seeds don’t need a coating of processed salt to be tasty. Let me tell you why these little seeds are so good for you, and how to best enjoy them and include them in your fall diet.
Vitamins and minerals galore
When you clean out your Halloween pumpkin and drop those clumps of seeds into the trash (or, hopefully, the compost), you probably wouldn’t guess how much health and wellness you’re throwing away.
Here are five health benefits to be gained by munching on roasted pumpkin seeds (and, they are a delicious snack!)
Tons of nutrients. A one-ounce (28g) serving of pumpkin seeds has 1.7g of fiber and 7g of protein.
It also offers a healthy portion of the recommended daily intake of a bunch of vitamins and minerals:
High in antioxidants. In one study, pumpkin seed oil reduced inflammation in rats with arthritis without side effects, while animals given an anti-inflammatory drug experienced some unpleasant side effects.
Reduced cancer risk. Diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been linked to a reduced risk of various cancers, including stomach, breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers. One study suggested that the lignans in pumpkin seeds could play a role in preventing breast cancer.
High in Magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium. Healthy magnesium levels are important for your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, as well as heart and bone health.
Research shows that up to 75 percent of Americans are deficient in this vital mineral. Heart disease, stroke, asthma, and migraines can result from a magnesium deficiency, not to mention the constellation of ailments known as metabolic syndrome.
May help improve sleep. Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan, the amino acid that can help promote sleep. But you’d need to eat about 7 ounces of seeds to get enough tryptophan to do that.
Good thing that pumpkin seeds also have plenty of zinc, which helps convert tryptophan to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.
How to roast your pumpkin seeds
In order to enjoy munching on those seeds, you’ll want to roast them first. That’s not hard to do.
Just preheat your oven to 300°, then toss the seeds in a bowl with some melted butter and a pinch of salt. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 45 minutes or until they’re golden, stirring them occasionally.
Or, if you’d rather ditch butter in favor of heart-healthy olive oil, here’s a simple way to roast those seeds.
Pumpkin Seeds: 11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits — GreenMedInfo
Effect of pumpkin-seed oil on the level of free radical scavengers induced during adjuvant-arthritis in rats — Pharmacological Research
Antioxidant and lipoxygenase inhibitory activities of pumpkin seed extracts — Food Research International