Pumpkin seeds are an edible seed typically roasted for consumption. They are a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine and are often eaten as a healthful snack.
They are sometimes referred to as pepitas, Spanish for “little seed of squash.”
This feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.
It looks at the possible health benefits of pumpkin seeds, the nutritional content, how to use pumpkin seeds in the diet, and possible health risks.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of healthful oils, magnesium, and other nutrients that enhance the health of the heart, bones, and other functions.
Seeds, in general, are considered excellent sourcesTrusted Source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Plant seeds are also a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and antioxidants.
The fatty acids in pumpkin seeds contain a rangeTrusted Source of beneficial nutrients, such as sterols, squalene, and tocopherols. Researchers have described the fatty acid profile of seeds, grains, and legumes as “favorable.”
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, which is important for bone formation.
High magnesium intake is associated withTrusted Source a greater bone density and has been shown to decrease the risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
Nutrients in pumpkins seeds, like sunflower seeds, may help protect against type 2 diabetes. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a role in the development of diabetes, and antioxidants may help reduce the risk.
In one experiment, diabetic rats started to recoveTrusted Sourcer after following a diet containing a flax and pumpkin seed mixture.
The seeds are a good source of magnesium.
Studies have suggested that for every 100 milligrams (mg) a day increase in magnesium intake, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreases by approximately 15 percentTrusted Source.
A 100-gram (g) serving of pumpkin seed kernel can contain over 90 mg of magnesium.
Low magnesium levels can impair insulin secretion and lower insulin sensitivity.
Improvement in lipid profiles has been seen with an intake of 365 milligrams of magnesium per day.
Heart and liver health
Pumpkin seeds contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. This combination has benefitsTrusted Source for both the heart and liver.
The fiber in pumpkin seeds helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Research to date suggests that omega-3s can:
decrease the risk of thrombosis and arrhythmias, which lead to heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death
reduce LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
reduce atherosclerosis, a fatty buildup on the artery walls
improve endothelial function, a measure of circulatory health
slightly lower blood pressure
Pumpkin seeds have been found to contain sterols. In one investigation, scientists found that there were 265 mg of total sterolsTrusted Source in every 100 g of pumpkin seed kernel.
Plant sterols and phytosterols are known to help reduce levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Researchers carrying out a review of clinical trials concludedTrusted Source in 2013 that the combination of nutrients found in plant seeds can help protect the cardiovascular system and help prevent coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
A rodent study has suggested that the nutrients in a mixture of flax and pumpkin seeds could provide some protectionTrusted Source for the liver and also against atherosclerosis.
Weight loss and digestion
Other benefits of a diet that is high in fiber includeTrusted Source:
helping maintain a healthy weight, because the individual feels full for longer after eating
enhancing digestive health
The immune system
Pumpkin seed oil has a high contentTrusted Source of vitamin E and other antioxidants.
Vitamin E helps strengthenTrusted Source the immune system and maintain healthy blood vessels. The ODS recommend eating seeds as a source of vitamin E.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid.
Tryptophan has been used to treat chronic insomnia because the body converts it into serotonin, the “feel-good” or “relaxing” hormone, and melatonin, the “sleep hormone.”
A study published in 2005 in Nutritional Neuroscience suggested thatTrusted Source consuming tryptophan from a gourd seed alongside a carbohydrate source was comparable to pharmaceutical grade tryptophan for the treatment of insomnia.
Having a few pumpkin seeds before bed, with a small amount of carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit, may be beneficial in providing your body with the tryptophan needed for melatonin production.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, as well as peanut.
Researchers have determined that every 100 g of pumpkins seeds contains 7.99 mg of zinc.
For male adults aged 19 years and above, the ODS recommendTrusted Source a daily intake of 11 mg of zinc and 8 mg for women.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that over 80 percentTrusted Source of women worldwide have an inadequate zinc intake. Low levels of zinc alter circulating levels of multiple hormones associated with the onset of labor.
Nutritionists recommendTrusted Source additional zinc during pregnancy, as it is likely to improve health outcomes.
Zinc is also essentialTrusted Source for normal immune function and prevention of uterine infections. All of these could potentially contribute to preterm delivery.
Non-refined pumpkin seed oil is thought to offer antioxidant protection.
This is due to its PUFA and lipophilic antioxidant content. Refining an oil removes or reduces these substances.
Antioxidants are considered to beTrusted Source “scavengers,”tasked with removing unwanted waste substances known as free radicals. If these substances remain in the body, there is a higher risk of a range of health problems.
Antioxidants have a wide rangeTrusted Source of uses, including reducing inflammation. One study, published in 1995, found that, in rats with arthritis, symptoms improved after taking pumpkin seed oil.
A German study, published in 2012, suggested thatTrusted Source a high consumption of pumpkin seeds may be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer after menopause.