Autumn has arrived and, as the leaves begin to turn and sunsets take on a burnished-gold hue, we are seeing pumpkins on display at local farm stands and grocery stores. For most people, pumpkins mean Halloween Jack O’ Lanterns and pie for dessert on Thanksgiving Day – wonderful uses to be sure; but the best, most nutritious part of the pumpkin usually goes to waste.
Like most edible seeds, those found in the cavity of pumpkins are packed with nutrition that carries an array of health benefits. Pumpkin seeds contain: vitamins (B, C, D and K), essential minerals (magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, iron, copper and zinc), essential fatty acids, phytosterols, L-tryptophan and fiber. Moreover, when toasted with your favorite seasonings, the result is a delicious way to get a ton of good nutrition and a satisfying between-meal snack.
- Prostate Health – Numerous studies have shown that Beta Sitosterol, the plant fat found in pumpkin seed oil had beneficial effects in patients with prostate cancer, benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and general prostate discomfort. In Europe, doctors recommend a combination of pumpkin seed oil, saw palmetto, nettle and zinc for prostate related problems.
- Neurological and Muscle Function -The average American is deficient in daily magnesium intake. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with magnesium. In fact, a ½ cup provides 92% of the recommended daily value. Adequate levels of magnesium in the blood are necessary for healthy function of muscles and nerves. Studies have demonstrated that when taking magnesium supplements to relieve muscle cramps, women reported a reduction in pain and incontinence associated with overactive bladder. It is thought that the magnesium relaxes the muscles in the bladder wall, thereby reducing the contractions causing the urinary urgency and incontinence.
- Bone Health – Most people are aware of the necessity for adequate dietary calcium in order to support healthy bones. What many don’t realize is that healthy bones require other essential minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and zinc for normal bone support. Pumpkin seeds provide these nutrients as well as anti-inflammatory agents which help prevent or alleviate arthritis.
- Circulatory Function – Pumpkin seeds provide a good dietary source of phytosterols, the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that protect the heart and circulatory system by reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing the blood levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. In addition, these fiber-rich seeds also contribute to improved blood lipid values by promoting improved digestion and increased bowel motility, which enhances the body’s natural cleansing mechanism.
- Nothing New -Though science is just beginning to discover the benefits of pumpkin seeds, their medicinal use has been around for a while. Native Americans are known to have used the seeds for ailments like intestinal worms and urinary problems, and Chinese medicine has used pumpkin seeds since the 17th century.
No Spoonful of Sugar Necessary
One of the best things about pumpkin seeds is the taste. By tossing them with some olive oil and a little sea salt you can create a really tasty snack that delivers a ton of good nutrition in every bite.