Pumpkin seeds are one of nature’s almost perfect foods. They are a natural source of beneficial constituents such as carbohydrates, amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids. They contain most of the B vitamins, along with C, D, E, and K. They also have the minerals calcium, potassium, and phosphorous. Pumpkin seeds have mainly been used to treat prostate and bladder problems, but they have also been known to help with depression and learning disabilities. They are generally recommended in some countries as a “brain food.” Pumpkin seeds can improve bladder and urethra function and prevent hardening of the arteries. Native American tribes were among the first people to notice the beneficial aspects of pumpkin seeds. They used them to treat kidney problems and to eliminate parasites from the intestines.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of proteins and monounsaturated fat, as well as providing a wide range of traditional nutrients. Our food ranking system qualified them as a very good source of the minerals, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, copper, protein, and zinc. One half-cup of pumpkin seeds contains 92% of your Daily value of magnesium, which a nutrient most Americans as deficient in.
Zinc is one further nutrient found in pumpkin seeds that might impact prostate function. The fact that pumpkin seeds serve as a good source of zinc may contribute to the role of pumpkin seeds in support of the prostate. Benign prostatic hypertrophy, (or BPH) is a condition that commonly affects men 50 years and older in the United States. BPH involves enlargement of the prostate gland. One of the factors that contribute to BPH is overstimulation of the prostate cells by testosterone and its conversion product dihydrotestosterone (or DHT). Components in pumpkin seed oil appear able to interrupt this triggering of the prostate cell multiplication by testosterone and DHT. Because of the pumpkin seed oil extract, scientists began to conduct research on the pumpkin seeds themselves. The prostate-helpful components found in the pumpkin oil extracts are definitely found in the pumpkin seeds. Men with higher amounts of carotenoids, which are found in pumpkin seeds, are at less risk for BPH.
In addition to maintaining prostate health, another reason for older men to make zinc-rich foods a regular part of their healthy way of eating is bone mineral density. Although osteoporosis is often thought to be a disease for which postmenopausal women are at highest risk, it is also a potential problem for older men.
Phytosterols, found in pumpkin seeds, lowers cholesterol. When phytosterols are present in the diet in sufficient amounts, they are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease the risk of certain cancers. Phytosterols beneficial effects are so dramatic that they have been extracted from soybean, corn, and pine tree oil and added to processed foods, such “butter-replacement” spreads, which are labeled as cholesterol-lowering foods. Why settle for an imitation when nuts and seeds are a naturally rich source of phytosterols and cardio protective fiber, minerals and healthy fats as well?
The healing properties of pumpkin seeds have also been recently investigated with respect to arthritis. Unlike synthetic drugs, pumpkin seeds do not increase the level of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the linings of the joints, a side-effect that actually contributes to the progression of arthritis. Adding pumpkin seeds to a daily diet helps reduce the inflammatory symptoms of arthritis.
Using pumpkin seeds in cooking is popular in many cultures. Adding roasted pumpkin seeds to soups and salads provides a nutty flavor. Pumpkin seed oil can be used as a salad dressing when combined with products like honey and olive oil. Roasted pumpkin seeds are of course commonly eaten as snacks, but be aware that while roasting brings out their full flavor, the heat also destroys their natural fatty acids. Thus they are most nutritious when eaten raw. Also make sure to refrigerate pumpkin seeds so the oil does not turn rancid.