Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients.

A man holds unshelled pumpkin seeds in his hands.
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Pumpkin seeds are the seeds that grow inside pumpkins. They provide protein, unsaturated fat, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, and more. Pumpkin seeds can be enjoyed as a snack, as a recipe ingredient, or in a variety of products, including pumpkin seed tofu, pumpkin seed butter, and pumpkin seed protein powder.

Here's more about pumpkin seed health benefits and nutrition, as well as ways to eat them.

Benefits

Pumpkin seeds are loaded with nutrients that are needed to help you function. On top of the nutritional benefits pumpkin seeds provide, there might also be some direct health benefits of consuming the seeds.

Provide antioxidants

Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants including phenols and flavonoids (Peng, 2021).

Phenols help fend off cell-damaging compounds in the body, which may protect against aging and disease. Their anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticancer effects have also been well-documented (Kumar, 2019).

Flavonoids have been linked to a broad spectrum of health-promoting effects, including protection against cancer, artery hardening, and Alzheimer's disease. Like phenols, flavonoids counter compounds that damage healthy cells and have strong anti-inflammatory effects (Panche, 2016).

These antioxidant effects may be even greater with roasted pumpkin seeds. Research shows that, after roasting, pumpkin seeds have more phenols and flavonoids (Peng, 2021). Roasted pumpkin seeds are available for purchase, but roasting pumpkin seeds is also something people might do with the seeds they scrape out when carving a pumpkin.

Contain good fat

Per 1-ounce serving—about a quarter cup—pumpkin seeds provide more fat than protein or carbohydrates. That fat is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (Batool, 2022).

Both these types of fat have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood, which can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke (AHA, 2015)(AHA, 2015).

Rich in magnesium

Pumpkin seeds are a top source of magnesium. This mineral is needed for more than 300 reactions in the body, including maintaining nerve and muscle function, supporting a healthy immune system, keeping heartbeat steady, and strengthening bones. Magnesium also helps the body produce energy and manage blood sugar levels (MedlinePlus, 2021).

May help reduce breast cancer risk

Phytoestrogens are natural compounds in some foods, like pumpkin seeds, that are similar to the hormone estrogen (Zaineddin, 2012)(Bilal, 2014).

A German study among postmenopausal women looked at the association of phytoestrogen-rich foods and breast cancer risk. The researchers collected data from more than 8,000 women and concluded that consumption of foods with phytoestrogens, including pumpkin seeds, was associated with significantly reduced breast cancer risk compared with not eating these foods (Zaineddin, 2012).

However, other research on the relationship between phytoestrogens and breast cancer has been mixed, so more research would be needed to know for certain whether there is a positive effect (Bilal, 2014).

Their extracts may aid health

Human research on the direct health outcomes related to eating pumpkin seeds themselves is actually limited. But there are studies on how pumpkin seed products, such as extracts and oils, can benefit health (Peng, 2021).

Small, mainly preliminary studies have shown that pumpkin seed supplementation may:

Nutrition

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten with or without their shells. According to the US Department of Agriculture, one ounce of unsalted pumpkin seeds without the shell provides: (USDA, 2020)

  • Calories: 163
  • Fat: 13.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.17g
  • Fiber: 1.84g
  • Protein: 8.45g
  • Magnesium: 156mg, 37% of the daily value
  • Zinc: 2.17mg, 19.7% of the daily value
  • Iron: 2.29mg, 12.7% of the daily value

Zinc is needed for the immune system to work properly and plays a role in cell growth, pregnancy development, wound healing, the breakdown of carbohydrates, and the action of insulin. It's also needed for the senses of smell and taste (MedlinePlus, 2021).

Iron is a mineral required for many functions. It's part of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body, and helps muscles store and use oxygen. It's also a part of many other proteins and enzymes (MedlinePlus, 2015).

Tips for Consuming

When they are shelled, they are white. When they are without a shell, they appear green. In either form, pumpkin seeds can be enjoyed as is. But there are plenty of other ways to eat pumpkin seeds and reap their benefits. You can:

  • Roast shelled pumpkin seeds.
  • Sprinkle pumpkin seeds onto oatmeal or overnight oats, yogurt, avocado toast, or fruit salad.
  • Add them to salads or as a garnish for slaw, hummus, cooked vegetables, soups, and stir fries.
  • Whip pumpkin seed protein into smoothies, blended soups, or mashed cauliflower to boost the protein content.
  • Incorporate pumpkin seed butter into pesto, sauces, smoothies, energy balls, or baked goods.

If you eat shelled pumpkin seeds, make sure to drink plenty of water to help your digestive system process their fiber content. While extremely rare, there have been a couple reports of men experiencing intestinal blockages after consuming large quantities of pumpkin seeds in the shell (Manne, 2012)(Gentile, 2022).

Summary

Pumpkin seeds are nutritious, offering a substantial amount of magnesium, zinc, and iron. They are a non-animal source of protein and can be consumed in a variety of ways. Their extracts and oil may offer some health benefits, too. Consider talking to your healthcare provider for guidance about if or how to use pumpkin seed supplements based on your personal medical history and goals.

Sources:

  1. Peng M, Lu D, Liu J, Jiang B, Chen J . Effect of Roasting on the Antioxidant Activity, Phenolic Composition, and Nutritional Quality of Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) Seeds. Front Nutr. 2021;8:647354. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.647354
  2. Kumar N, Goel N. Phenolic acids: Natural versatile molecules with promising therapeutic applications. Biotechnol Rep (Amst). 2019;24:e00370. doi:10.1016/j.btre.2019.e00370
  3. Panche AN, Diwan AD, Chandra SR. Flavonoids: an overview. J Nutr Sci. 2016;5: e47. doi:10.1017/jns.2016.41
  4. Batool M, Ranjha MMAN, Roobab U, et al. Nutritional Value, Phytochemical Potential, and Therapeutic Benefits of Pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.). Plants (Basel). 2022;11(11):1394. doi:10.3390/plants11111394
  5. American Heart Association. Monounsaturated Fat.
  6. American Heart Association. Polyunsaturated Fat.
  7. MedlinePlus. Magnesium in diet.
  8. Zaineddin AK, Buck K, Vrieling A, et al. The association between dietary lignans, phytoestrogen-rich foods, and fiber intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk: a German case-control study. Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(5):652-65. doi:10.1080/01635581.2012.683227. Epub 2012 May 16.
  9. Bilal I, Chowdhury A, Davidson J, Whitehead S. Phytoestrogens and prevention of breast cancer: The contentious debate. World J Clin Oncol. 2014;5(4):705–712. doi:10.5306/wjco.v5.i4.705
  10. Liebbrand M, Siefer S, C Schön, et al. Effects of an Oil-Free Hydroethanolic Pumpkin Seed Extract on Symptom Frequency and Severity in Men with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: A Pilot Study in Humans. J Med Food. 2019;22(6):551-559. doi:10.1089/jmf.2018.0106
  11. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Prostate Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia).
  12. Wong A, Viola D, Bergen D, Caulfield E, Mehrabani J, Figueroa A. The effects of pumpkin seed oil supplementation on arterial hemodynamics, stiffness and cardiac autonomic function in postmenopausal women. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019;37:23-26. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.08.003
  13. MedlinePlus. Overactive Bladder.
  14. Nishimura M, Ohkawara T, Sato H, Takeda H, Nishihira J. Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted From Cucurbita maxima Improves Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder. J Tradit Complement Med. 2014;4(1):72–74. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.124355
  15. US Department of Agriculture. Pumpkin seeds, unsalted.
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  18. Manne JR, Rangu VM, Motapothula UMR, Hall MC. A Crunching Colon: Rectal Bezoar Caused by Pumpkin Seed Consumption. Clin Med Res. 2012;10(2):75–77. doi:10.3121/cmr.2011.1016
  19. Gentile M, Vergara L, et al. Harry Potter's Occlusion: Report of a Case of Pumpkin Seed Bezoar Rectal Impact. Front Surg. 2022;9:902701. doi:10.3389/fsurg.2022.902701
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