Pumpkin seeds nutrition facts
Pumpkin seeds are edible kernels of pumpkin fruit. The seeds, in-fact, are concentrated source of numerous health benefiting minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. Pumpkin fruit, native to Mexico, is a squash-like gourd of the Cucurbitaceae family. Scientific name: Cucurbita pepo.
The pumpkin fruit, in general, is grown as a field vegetable crop; and its seeds, nevertheless, are used as food and to extract useful pumpkin seed oil. In some parts of central Europe (Styrian province in Austria, Slovenia and Hungary) where it is cultivated as major oil seed crop.
Pumpkin fruit is allowed to mature completely to get good quality seeds. Each fruit contains up to 500 cream-white husked seeds located at its central hollow cavity interspersed in between net like mucilaginous fibers. The seeds are semi-flat, have typical oval shape with conical tip. Inside, the edible kernel has olive-green color. The kernels have sweet, creamy nutty flavor enjoyed in deserts, as snack, in savory dishes etc. In Central America, hulled and roasted pumpkin seeds known as pepita.
Health benefits of pumpkin seeds
- Crunchy pumpkin seeds are high in calories, about 559 calories per 100 g. In addition, they are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and numerous health promoting antioxidants.
- Their high caloric content mainly comes from protein and fats. On the positive side, the nuts are especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid (18:1) that helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- The seeds contain good quality protein. 100 g seeds provide 30 g or 54% of recommended daily allowance. In addition, the seeds are excellent source of amino acids tryptophan and glutamate. Tryptophan is converted in to serotonin and niacin. Serotonin is a beneficial neuro-chemical often labeled as nature’s sleeping pill. Further, tryptophan is precursor of B-complex vitamin, niacin (60 mg of tryptophan = 1mg niacin).
- Glutamate is required in the synthesis of γ-amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA, an anti-stress neurochemical in the brain, helps reducing anxiety, nervous irritability, and other neuroses conditions.
- Pepitas are very good source of anti-oxidant vitamin E; contain about 35.10 mg of tocopherol-γ per 100 g (about 237% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. It prevents tissue cells from the free radical mediated oxidant injury. Thus, it helps maintain the integrity of mucus membranes and skin by protecting from harmful oxygen free radicals.
- Pumpkin kernels are also excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin,niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins functions as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism in the body. In addition, niacin help reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. Along with glutamate, it enhances GABA activity inside the brain, which in turn help reduce anxiety and neurosis.
- Furthermore, its seeds contain very good levels of essential minerals like copper, manganese,potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Just as pine nuts, pumpkin seeds are very rich in manganese (provide 4543 mg per 100 g, about 198% of daily-recommended intake), pines are one of the richest sources of manganese. Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. It is therefore, consumption of pumpkin kernels helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen free radicals.
Medicinal values of pumpkin seeds.
- Research studies suggest that pumpkin seeds have DHEA (Di hydro epi-androstenedione) blocking actions. This may be helpful in preventing prostate and ovarian cancers.
- In addition, experimental studies suggest that certain phytochemical compounds in pumpkin seed oil may have role in prevention of diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).