Pumpkins are a variety of squash that is native to North America and believed to have been cultivated as a source of food since 7000 BC. They are round vegetables, with thick, slightly ribbed orange skins that contain both pumpkin seeds and pulp. Organic pumpkin seeds are small, flat, green edible seeds that are protected by a white shell and frequently referred to by their Spanish name of ‘pepitas’. As well as being a popular snack, especially at Halloween, organic pumpkin seeds are an incredibly wholesome superfood that’s loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins (including vitamins B6, B9, C, E & K), minerals (such as iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper and potassium) and omega 3 fatty acids. Below we examine five valuable nutrients found in these anti-inflammatory, superfood powerhouses of nutrition – and how they can directly benefit your health – in more detail.
Organic pumpkin seeds and five favourable ingredients
Organic pumpkin seeds contain around 10mg of zinc per every 100 grams – so much in fact, that the World Health Organization recommends pumpkin seeds as an excellent source of this valuable mineral. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency is becoming increasingly prevalent (partly due to the nutrient depletion of our fresh food products) and is associated with a greater susceptibility to colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, learning problems and poor school performance in children.
Zinc is an important trace element that helps in the creation of new cells and enzymes, aids our body in the processing of carbohydrates, fat and protein, promotes the healing of wounds and actively strengthens our immune system. As well as boosting all round immunity, zinc is also crucial for prostate health. Indeed, more zinc is found in the prostrate than anywhere else in the body and research suggests that both pumpkin seed oil and organic pumpkin seeds may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health.
Just one-quarter cup of organic pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Magnesium helps to convert the food that we consume into energy and is responsible for healthy parathyroid gland function – the parathyroid glands produce hormones that are essential for bone health. Several studies have positively linked magnesium supplementation to improved bone mineral density. Surprisingly, magnesium deficiency affects some 7 out of 10 UK women, putting them at an increased risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Magnesium is also thought to play a key role in regulating blood pressure and scientific research indicates that high blood pressure can be lowered by a diet high in magnesium. A report published in the British Medical Journal revealed that patients undergoing long-term diuretic treatment for arterial hypertension or congestive heart failure, who received a daily magnesium supplement for six months, witnessed a demonstrable reduction in both their systolic and diastolic blood pressures. And population surveys have repeatedly associated higher blood levels of magnesium with a lowered risk of coronary heart disease.
3) Omega-3 fatty acids
Organic pumpkin seeds are one of the finest sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Although omega-3 fatty acids are vital for human health, our body can’t actually produce them itself and must therefore retrieve them via food. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids play an integral role in brain function and are crucial for healthy growth and development. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids actively reduce inflammation and may even help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and arthritis. The function of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular health is also well established and eating a diet low in saturated fats and high monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, is an effective way of helping to prevent heart disease.
Organic pumpkin seeds are also an incredibly rich source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our body converts into serotonin, which is subsequently used to produce melatonin, the so-called ‘sleep hormone’. Enjoying organic pumpkin seeds a few hours prior to bedtime, can help to provide your body with all the tryptophan needed to produce sufficient melatonin and serotonin for a sound night’s sleep. In addition, tryptophan has shown some promise as both an antidepressant and an augmenter of antidepressant medications and many swear by organic pumpkin seeds as a preventative measure against the onset of anxiety attacks and other mood disorders.
5) Natural phytoestrogens
Pumpkin seed oil is rich in natural phytoestrogens – plant derived xenoestrogens that function as the primary female sex hormone and are deemed especially beneficial for women who are undergoing the menopause. Studies link phytoestrogens to an increase in good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) levels and a reduction in a number of unwelcome menopausal symptoms, such as high blood pressure, hot flushes, headaches and joint pain. Epidemiological studies have also demonstrated a protective effect against breast cancer.
Putting organic pumpkin seeds on your menu
Organic pumpkin seeds boast a slightly sweet, nutty flavour and make a delicious yet sensible snack between meals. They can also be sprinkled generously over breakfast cereals, soups and salads and are a great addition to trail mix or your favourite rawfood snacks.