Pumpkin seeds are one of nature’s most nourishing foods. While they may be small, their nutrition is mighty – and you really only need to eat a small handful of them to receive the full benefits.
Pumpkin seeds have been linked with health benefits like improving heart and prostate health, reducing cancer risk, and promoting better sleep.
What’s more is that these seeds can be easily incorporated into just about any meals – baking, smoothies, salads, as a snack, you name it!
So before we get into the health details of pumpkin seeds – what is a pumpkin seed?
What Are Pumpkin Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds come from the inside of a pumpkin or similar squash variations. Since pumpkins are a fruiting body (a squash), they have seeds to propagate the following year.
Pumpkin seeds are edible, flat, oval-shaped green seeds that come cased in a hard outer shell. When removed from the pumpkin, these seeds can be roasted in the oven, or they can be cracked open to reveal the raw pumpkin seed.
When buying pumpkin seeds from a grocery store, you’d look for the green seeds, not the ones you’d find straight from a pumpkin. Manufacturers actually de-case the pumpkin seeds to reveal the green seed inside and sell that either raw or roasted.
Pumpkin Seed Nutrition Facts
Pumpkin seeds are protein- and fat-packed seeds that are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and crucial phytonutrients.
Here is a brief overview of the nutrition found in pumpkin seeds:
|PRINCIPAL||NUTRIENT VALUE||PERCENTAGE OF RDA|
|Dietary Fiber||1.1 g||4%|
|Vitamin A||107 IU||2%|
|Vitamin C||0.5 g||1%|
|Vitamin E||0.0 mg||0%|
|Vitamin K||14.5 mcg||18%|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||3%|
|Pantothenic Acid||0.1 mg||1%|
10 Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Here are the top 10 health benefits of pumpkin seeds, backed by science:
1. Powerful Anti-Inflammatory
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of antioxidants like vitamin E and carotenoids, which help neutralize free radicals that would normally trigger an inflammatory response in the body .
Studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil performs as an effective topical anti-inflammatory agent, helping clear up acute and chronic inflammatory skin conditions like acne (2).
In an older study, pumpkin seed oil reduced inflammation in rats with arthritis without any side effects. Animals who were given an anti-inflammatory drug to control their arthritis experienced reduced inflammation, but with adverse effects of the drugs.
2. Stabilize Blood Sugar
The antioxidants in pumpkin seeds, as we’ve seen above, help reduce inflammation in the body. Higher than normal levels of inflammation in the body are commonly associated with chronic conditions like diabetes .
In addition to antioxidants, the high magnesium content of pumpkin seeds may also be responsible for helping lower blood sugar levels. Just one ounce of pumpkin seeds provides 37% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Research has even shown that those who consume more magnesium have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes .
Several studies have found that supplementing with pumpkin juice or pumpkin seed powder helped lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
While more research is needed to confirm the beneficial effects of pumpkin seeds on blood sugar levels, the results look promising.
3. Boost Heart Health
The antioxidants, minerals, and fatty acids in pumpkin seeds all have a positive effect on heart health.
Animal studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, .
In humans, it was found that pumpkin seed oil supplementation reduced diastolic blood pressure by 7% and increased HDL or “good” cholesterol levels by 16%.
Other studies have found that pumpkin seeds increase nitric oxide generation in the body. This could be beneficial for the health of our cardiovascular system, as nitric oxide helps open up the blood vessels, improving blood flow, and reducing the risk of arterial plaque build-up.
Pumpkin seeds also have high concentrations of phytosterols that can help inhibit the absorption of bad cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract.
4. Help Fight Cancer Cell Growth
One study found that pumpkin seed extracts inhibit cell growth of hyperplastic and cancer cells.
Moreover, studies suggest that the phytoestrogens in pumpkin seeds may play an important role in preventing and treating breast cancer .
A large observational study on postmenopausal women found that eating pumpkin seeds was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.
In vitro research has also found that supplements containing pumpkin seeds may help slow the spread and growth of prostate cancer cells.
5. Improve Bladder Function
Pumpkin seeds have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition where the prostate enlarges and causes problems with urination in men.
A handful of studies have found that eating pumpkin seeds reduces the symptoms associated with BPH.
Pumpkin seed oil may also help improve other aspects of bladder function, like helping improve symptoms of overactive bladder and correcting urinary dysfunction.
Pumpkin seeds have also been found to prevent kidney stones, as evidenced in a study conducted in Thailand. According to the authors of the study, “Pumpkin seeds provide high phosphorus levels and can be used as a potential agent in lowering the risk of bladder-stone disease.”
6. Improve Male Reproductive Health
Pumpkin seeds are essential for men’s health and provide significant protection for the prostate gland.
The prostate is said to store minerals like zinc, which help prevent issues like prostate enlargement (hyperplasia) induced by testosterone imbalance.
Pumpkin seeds may also help improve male fertility. One animal model demonstrated how pumpkin seed oil supplementation prevented sperm abnormalities and increased sperm count in rats (19).
And, as we’ve seen above, pumpkin seeds have been found to decrease symptoms in men with BPH, which triggers an enlarged prostate.
7. Promote Better Sleep
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of tryptophan, which is critical for a good quality sleep .
Tryptophan interacts with brain chemicals important to sleep, and the timing of your biological clock’s sleep-wake cycle. Tryptophan increases serotonin, which also increases melatonin, two neurotransmitters that regulate sleep and mood. If your serotonin or melatonin are disrupted, you may suffer from insomnia and depressive symptoms.
Pumpkin seeds are also very high in magnesium, which has been associated with better sleep quality .
Studies have found that taking a magnesium supplement improves sleep quality and total sleep time in those who have low levels of magnesium .
8. Reduce Anxiety and Depression
High levels of tryptophan present in pumpkin seeds also make them great mood-enhancers.
Studies have shown that those experiencing mood disorders like anxiety and depression may have tryptophan levels that are lower than normal.
As the availability of serotonin depends on the intake of tryptophan, dietary sources of this amino acid, such as that found in pumpkin seeds, are essential for good mental health and well-being.
Pumpkin seeds are also high in magnesium, which has been found to treat depression even better than antidepressant drugs .
9. Enhance Immune Function
The antioxidants found in pumpkin seeds, like vitamin E and carotenoids, help boost immune function.
When a virus or other pathogen enters our bodies, a certain class of immune cells called T cells to jump into action, proliferating rapidly.
Studies have shown that vitamin E is enough to protect the T cells’ cell membranes from damage, so that they can successfully multiply and fend off viral infections.
Another nutrient found in high levels in pumpkin seeds is zinc.
Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, helping in the development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and natural killer (NK) cells .
A handful of pumpkin seeds provides you with over 14% of your daily value for zinc, so be sure to load up when you feel your immune system needs a little boost!
10. May Promote Hair Growth
Of the many health benefits of pumpkin seeds, the support of hair growth is one of them.
Pumpkin seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as other phytonutrients that improve the texture of dry, brittle hair.
Zinc, for example, helps increase the production of keratin, a type of protein found in the hair.
In one study, twenty-four weeks of treatment with pumpkin seed oil increased hair growth by nearly 40% in men with baldness. This could likely be due to the phytosterols found in pumpkin seeds, which inhibits enzymes that break down hair protein and cause hair fall (26).
The Bottom Line
Pumpkin seeds are a delicious seed that is nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants and other crucial phytonutrients. They contain a good amount of healthy fat, protein and fiber.
Thanks to their diverse nutrient profile, pumpkin seeds help boost the immune system, reduce the risk of cancer, enhance sleep quality and mood, improve heart health and more.
You can enjoy pumpkin seeds roasted or raw as a snack, in smoothies, salads or baking.