Growing up in Asia, I was not a huge fan of eating seeds as snacks. They tasted pretty good, once you opened that shell with your teeth, but to my young mind, that was too much trouble. Now I appreciate the many health benefits seeds have to offer, especially this time of year when pumpkins and squashes are in season. Though personally these are not my favorite vegetables, many people enjoy them and their benefits as FoodTrients are undeniable.
Most people throw out the healthiest part of pumpkins and squashes—the seeds! Don’t do it! They’re nutty, savory and have high concentrations of the nutrients that make squashes and especially pumpkins valuable to your diet. The roasted seeds are some of the most nutritious and flavorful seeds around. Pumpkin seeds are available all year, but it’s best to roast them now when they’re fresh. Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals and important amino acids.
- A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is beneficial to important functions in the body from good heart rhythm to relaxing blood vessels to proper bowel function.
- They are rich in zinc, boosting immunity, cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health and insulin regulation.
- Pumpkin seed oil is rich in natural phytoestrogens, which may reduce hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.
- Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber, which benefit heart health.
- Pumpkin sees are a rich source of tryptophan, which helps promote sleep.
- In some animal studies there is evidence pumpkin seed oil has an anti-inflammatory effect that can reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
Try roasted, shelled pumpkin seeds in salads, to garnish soups, baked into breads or mixed into hot cereal for an extra nutritional boost. Be sure to roast fresh pumpkin seeds for no more than 15-20 minutes in the oven. Any longer and they start to lose their health benefits. Most of my friends enjoy munching roasted, lightly salted seeds as a snack while socializing or watching television. It’s better than popcorn!
Squash Seeds Are the Toast of Healthy Snacking
Don’t let the seeds of other squash varieties go to waste. Acorn, butternut and delicata squashes all have seeds that look similar to pumpkin seeds in shape and size and have many of the same benefits. By snacking on delicious toasted squash seeds, you reap the concentrated nutritional benefits of this seasonal treat.
- Squash seeds contain about 126 calories per ounce.
- They are nutrient dense with good amounts of magnesium, zinc, healthful fats and fiber.
- Squash seeds are high in unsaturated fats, which improve blood cholesterol levels, and decrease your risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are also beneficial for promoting healthy nerves, skin and joints.
- Butternut squash seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids (35%-40%) that benefit heart health. Like pumpkin seeds, they are rich in protein (30%), minerals, and numerous health-benefiting vitamins.
- Add toasted squash seeds to cooked grains such as brown rice or quinoa for hearty flavor and appealing texture.
So when you go to carve your pumpkin or scoop out your squash, don’t miss out on the health and culinary bonus that the seeds offer.