Whether you call them pumpkin seeds, pepitas, or punkin’ seeds (if you’re my mom), these “little seeds of squash” should be something you consider adding to your diet. I was relatively unfamiliar with pumpkin seeds until I started my nutrition education. In a class I recently completed, we were asked to record a one week food journal in order to perform a diet analysis to assess the nutritional health of our diets. Through this exercise, I learned that my typical diet was sadly lacking in vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and several other micronutrients. While researching foods I could add to my diet to address this deficiency, I noticed that pumpkin seeds kept popping up on all the lists. So, I immediately went to the bulk section of my local health food store and filled up a bag. Ever since, I’ve been sprinkling them on salads and snacking on them between meals.
In addition to being a great source of protein and healthy fats, here’s what these little seeds can add to your diet:
- Minerals. Pumpkin seeds contain the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper. Minerals are important because they help regulate your metabolism, support heart function, produce energy, maintain acid-base balance, and boost your immune system. Many people are mineral deficient because of the ways our crops are raised nowadays, so ensuring that you’re getting enough minerals is uber-imporant.
- Tryptophan. We’ve all heard about turkey containing this lovely sleep-enhancing, mood-elevating ingredient, but pumpkin seeds are a great source too.
- Phytonutrients. These little guys contain potent compounds that can repair cell damage, build strong immune systems, and act as antioxidants (which are cancer’s enemy).
Here are some great ways you can incorporate pumpkin seeds into your diet:
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of mixed green salads.
- Roast them with spices like curry for a tasty snack.
- Roast them with cinnamon and a bit of raw unfiltered honey to top yogurt or oatmeal.
- Add pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal raisin cookie or granola recipe.
- Eat ’em by the handful!
I recently found a bag of them at Marshall’s (is it just me, or have them been carrying lots of interesting food items lately?). I like mine unsalted and shelled, but they’re even healthier if you eat them with the shell on because that’s where most of the fiber and zinc are.
Let me know how you end up incorporating these beauties into your diet. They are so good for you!