Considered medicinal for more than 3,000 years in different parts of the globe, pumpkin seeds have a remarkable array of health benefits, new studies show. Packed with magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and vitamin K, these tasty treats are rated as one of the world’s healthiest foods.
In fact, a recent study showed that pumpkin seeds, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, offer a heart-healthy noshing option by reducing blood pressure. Also known as pepitas, the flat, dark-green seeds may also lower cholesterol, reduce diabetes risk, aid weight loss, improve your mood—and even fight cancer.
Here’s a look at some of the surprising ways this super-squash can protect your health.
A new study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design reports that compounds known as cucurbitacins can help combat cancer--and pumpkin seeds are loaded with them. These compounds have been shown to kill various types of cancer cells and also have potent anti-inflammatory properties. “Taking all of these effects into account, cucurbitacins may prove useful in the treatment of different types of cancer,” researchers from University of Valencia, Spain report.
In another new study, German scientists found that eating pumpkin seeds lowered the risk of breast cancer by 23 percent in postmenopausal women. The study involved comparing dietary data from 2,884 women who developed breast cancer and 5,509 healthy women. The study also found that eating sunflower seeds and soybeans lowered risk.
Pumpkin seeds are just as beneficial for men, too. Pumpkin seed oil has been used to manage benign prostate hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate). In addition to the oily parts of the seeds, other phytochemicals may also help treat the condition. These compounds can also be found in flaxseeds, saw palmetto berries and soy. According to this study, published in International Journal of Oncology, a dietary supplement containing pumpkin seed may combat the growth and spread of prostate cancer.
Looking for a natural way to cool off from hot flashes? A 2011 double-blinded study suggests that pumpkin seed oil can reduce hot flashes, headaches, and joint pain and improve mood swings in postmenopausal women, compared to a control group of women who were given lookalike capsules containing wheat germ oil. The same study noted that pumpkin seed oil improved women’s HDL (good) cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure.
In addition to boosting levels of HDL, pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols. In one analysis of 16 previous studies involving 509 people, these compounds reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by an average of 13 percent, while total cholesterol dropped by 10 percent. Phytosterols work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in your intestines and can lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood. A 2011 study recommended daily intake of phytosterol-rich foods as a natural way to lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk.
In the world of super foods, pumpkin seeds are a must-try for diabetics. They are high in iron and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. In animal studies, researchers have indicated that the compounds in pumpkin may be successful in managing insulin levels and diabetes risk.
In fact, pumpkin was so beneficial in improving the health of diabetic mice that the Chinese researchers recommended that its compounds be developed into a new anti-diabetic medication for people.
Pumpkin seeds may also help you shed pounds. They are packed with fiber and protein—two important components for weight loss. Just one ounce of pumpkin seeds includes five grams of protein, which can keep you fuller longer.
Chow down in moderation, because a cup of pumpkin seeds in the shell contains about 285 calories, along with 12 grams of fat, while husked seeds contain 720 calories per cup.
While pumpkin seeds are great for your body, they can help your mind as well. A study indicates that de-oiled pumpkin seed taken with glucose may be effective in treating social anxiety, and it may aid in treating depression. Speaking of mood-enhancers, a recent report indicates that pumpkin may help increase sex drive as well.
You may be able to eat your way to arthritis relief by snacking on pumpkin seeds. A 2005 study found that pumpkin oil reduces inflammation that causes arthritis. Pumpkin seed oil has the effects of indomethacin, a popular anti-inflammatory drug, and offers an all-natural way to treat arthritis symptoms.
People with a zinc deficiency may want to consider snacking on pumpkin seeds. They are a substantial source of zinc, a mineral low in many people with bone fractures. In just a quarter of a cup, pumpkin seeds deliver 17 percent of your daily intake value of zinc.
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