The Great Pumpkin
With Halloween just around the corner, pumpkins are readily available for your consumption and carving pleasure. Pumpkin seeds provide many health benefits including:
- 100 g pumpkin kernels provide 559 calories. Their high caloric content mainly comes from fats. However, the nuts are especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid (18:1) that helps to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good 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 proteins. 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 labelled as nature’s sleeping pill. Further, tryptophan is precursor of 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 maintains the integrity of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it 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.
- Also, experimental studies suggest that certain phytochemical compounds in pumpkin seed oil may have role in prevention of diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).
Did you know that an average size pumpkin can produce up to 500 seeds? And, in order to gain the greatest health benefits, pumpkins should be fully mature before picking. Wondering what to do with all those seeds? Check out this recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, and for more fun and Paleo friendly Halloween recipes check out paleodietlifestyle.com.
Spicy pumpkin seeds
As mentioned previously, pumpkin seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals, but also with polyunsaturated omega-6 fats. Those fats are very fragile and can go rancid quite quickly so seeds prepared this way should be kept in a air-tight container in the refrigerator and eaten in less than a week. This is also a nice snack kids will like and is very quick to prepare. It’s a great way to eat the seeds you’ll get when carving the Halloween pumpkins. In this case, simple rinse and dry the seeds before using them.
- 3 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas);
- 2 tbsp butter, ghee or coconut oil;
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp chili powder;
- 1 tbsp sea salt;
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper;
- Preheat your oven to 350 F.
- In a bowl, toss the pumpkin seeds with the melted oil, chili powder, sea salt and cayenne pepper;
- Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.
- Let cool and serve or store in the refrigerator in a air-tight container. Most recipes call for a liquid vegetable oil, but the butter or coconut oil will harden when chilled in the refrigerator, giving the seeds another texture, but leaving them absolutely delicious.
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