Pumpkins are an important part of the holiday season. From pumpkin pies to pumpkin spice lattes, a proper holiday meal is not complete without this bright orange fruit.
Unfortunately, pumpkin seeds tend to be discarded. For one thing, the tiny seeds don’t offer as much “meat” as the thick and vibrant pulp. But despite their size, these crunchy seeds are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats and essential nutrients, such as protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, that help support cardiovascular health, among other things.
Pumpkin seeds are a heart-healthy source of important nutrients
Like many varieties of nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds are considered heart-healthy superfoods due to the seeds’ effects on cardiometabolic factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
For instance, the high antioxidant content of pumpkin seeds helps ease constricted blood vessels caused by cholesterol buildup, which minimizes the risk of cardiovascular complications like stroke and heart attack. Essential micronutrients like magnesium and zinc also have powerful effects against hypertension (high blood pressure).
Additionally, pumpkin seeds have high levels of copper, which increase the body’s red blood cell count, aiding blood circulation. Copper also allows the body to absorb iron more efficiently and minimizes the risk of anemia, a nutritional deficiency marked by extreme fatigue, chest pain and paleness.
Another cardiometabolic benefit of pumpkin seeds is linked to a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. Due to the antioxidant properties of omega-3 fatty acids, regular consumption of pumpkin seeds can help reduce high blood sugar levels and prevent fluctuations after meals.
Moreover, the high fiber content of pumpkin seeds also inhibits the absorption of excess glucose in the gut. High-quality proteins, on the other hand, help boost metabolism and allow the body to burn fat more efficiently, thus reducing the risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. (Related: Diabetes prevention study: Fiber helps reduce blood sugar, improve gut bacteria.)
A 2010 animal study also showed evidence to suggest that pumpkin seeds helped prevent diabetic complications. The study, published in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, revealed that pumpkin seeds help lower the level of plasma enzymes caused by liver lesions – a side-effect of Type 2 diabetes – in diabetic rats.
Other proven health benefits of pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are an incredibly healthy calorie-dense snack that provides essential vitamins and minerals. They may be small, but the benefits they offer rival those of most meat and plant-based sources of protein, fiber and important micronutrients. Here are other proven health benefits of pumpkin seeds that make them a worthy addition to any diet.
Pumpkin seeds lower the risk of certain cancers
The antioxidants in pumpkins work to neutralize free radicals that cause cellular damage, which can lead to the development of cancer over time. Antioxidants also help inhibit the growth of tumors, and they can even induce programmed cell death of cancer cells. In particular, pumpkin seeds protect against cancers of the breasts, lungs and colon.
Pumpkin seeds improve sleep quality
Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps promote sleep. High levels of magnesium are also typically associated with better sleep quality.
Pumpkin seeds support prostate and bladder health
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are commonly used in traditional medicine to strengthen bladder tissue and prevent bacterial infections. Pumpkin seeds may also help relieve symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia, a condition marked by enlarged prostate glands and loss of bladder control.
Pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious superfoods that provide several health benefits. Eat plenty of pumpkin seeds to improve heart health, prevent nutritional deficiencies and lower the risk of certain cancers.