The arrival of autumn brings all things pumpkin and pumpkin spice. And while you may be indulging in lattes, pumpkin rolls, and pumpkin pancakes, let’s not forget the often looked-over and discarded part of the poor orange gourd – the pumpkin seed.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, pumpkin seeds are a great source of lots of minerals, including zinc which helps with the body’s immunity. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seeds can help to lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) and prevent muscle weakness.
Additional benefits of pumpkin seeds include:
- A high-quality source of protein
- Reduced risk of prostate, colon, stomach, lung, and breast cancer due to lignans compound found in the seed
- Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps you fall (and stay) asleep.
- High source of fiber if eaten with the shells still on the seed. Just be cautious of how much they may be salted. Opt for low salt, or no salt
“Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant protein and other nutrients which can act as antioxidants to help protect against certain diseases,” says registered dietitian Maxine Smith, RD. “Pumpkin seeds with shells are an excellent source of fiber but can have a ton of sodium — some more than the daily recommended amount of sodium in just 1 ounce. “I recommended opting for unsalted or lightly salted options.”
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw or roasted or combined in many recipes to add flavor, texture, and nutrition. Please note that when it comes to pepitas or pumpkin seeds, a little goes a long way. Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber, calories, and fat. One cup of pumpkin seeds has 285 calories, 12 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of fat. So while the recipes below may be appealing, remember portion control is key.
So what are some ways you can prepare or incorporate pumpkin seeds into your nutrition? Check out some of the tips and recipes below to make the most out of the contents of your ghoulish gourd.
How to prepare pumpkin seeds:
Once you’ve removed the seeds from your pumpkin, place them in a colander and rinse them with water. Remove the seeds and dry them. Once the seeds are dry, place them into a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. You can then incorporate any seasoning your heart may desire: salt, paprika, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, chipotle…the list goes on and on! Line a cookie sheet and spread out the pumpkin seed mixture, and bake at 250F for 45 minutes. Check on the seeds every 10-15 minutes and gently mix or stir the seeds around on the tray. You want them to roast until they turn a golden brown color evenly. Remove, cool, and enjoy your snack!
Are you not carving pumpkins, or don’t feel like making a mess in the kitchen? You can purchase pepitas from your local grocery store, and they can be incorporated into several nutrition recipes:
Add pepitas to your favorite salad. Pepitas can add texture, a nutty flavor, and some nutrients to any salad. Consider them instead of croutons. They can also be a nice complement to any fruit salad! Just remember, measure out the proper portions!
Banana pepitas smoothie:
Blend together 1 banana, 2 tablespoons of pepitas, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of honey, 2 teaspoons of nut butter (your choice), 1 cup of nut milk (your choice), ice, and blend. Pour the smoothie into a glass and sprinkle a few pepitas on top!
Spicy Maple Pepita Granola
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
- 3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I like the big ones)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 1 heaping teaspoon of sea salt
- 1/4 cup pepitas
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 300F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a saucepan, combine the coconut oil, honey, and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and heat until melted, gently blending together. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Slowly drizzle the heated mixture over the dry mixture and gently mix until well combined. Spread the mixture out over the baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining maple syrup. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring about every 10-15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are versatile ingredients that can go a long way in the kitchen. So don’t just toss out the seeds when you’re carving up your jack-o-lanterns, but put them to good use to help build your immunity and fuel your workouts. Don’t let the slimy mess scare you away this Halloween season, but take it head-on in the kitchen. Your stomach will thank you.