If you’re looking to introduce a new food into your diet but are lost at the sea of options, then look no further than pumpkin seeds. The deep green kernels inside creamy white shells hold exceptional nutritional value and are sure to boost your health even with a limited intake. What are the super health benefits of pumpkin seeds, you ask? The nutty-tasting kernels have got you covered from diabetes to disturbed sleep, palpitations to hypertension and fatigue all the way to pregnancy and fertility concerns.
1) Don’t raise blood sugar in diabetics. If you are a diabetic, then these are the seeds for you. Pumpkin seeds have a low glycemic index value of only 10 and their effects on blood sugar are minimal (as low as they can possibly be). Even more, the green kernels reduce the glycemic response of other foods as well, contributing to better blood sugar control post-meal and improved insulin control. Find out more about Diabetes and Pumpkin Seeds.
2) Especially good for pregnant women. The green kernels deliver important amounts of folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin B9. 100 g provide about 57 mcg (micrograms), which amounts to close to 15% of the recommended daily intake for an average adult. Folate is best known for its role in reducing the incidence of neural tube defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord in babies (such as spina bifida). Pumpkin seed kernels further provide over 60% of the average adult’s daily iron intake (8.07 mg). The mineral is a crucial element for the production of red blood cells and anti-anemia remedy. Together with folate, iron combats fatigue, restores vitality and boosts energy during pregnancy.
3) Help lower blood pressure. One of the biggest benefits of eating pumpkin seeds is that they help lower blood pressure. The anti-hypertensive effect is owed to excellent amounts of the mineral magnesium, 550 mg per 100 g of kernels (an average adult requires a minimum of 400 mg of magnesium a day, so only 72-73 g of the kernels is enough to help you meet your daily requirements).
The seeds further provide good amounts of the mineral potassium (788 mg per 100 g of kernels, over 15% of the recommended daily intake). Magnesium regulates heart contractions, while potassium counteracts the effects of excess sodium – together, the two minerals helps prevent and reverse high blood pressure. Although it’s best to avoid salted pumpkin seeds to reduce risks of hypertension.
4) Help with palpitations, extrasystoles and other forms of arrhythmia. Potassium, magnesium, folate (vitamin B9) and iron in the kernels help reduce the incidence of palpitations, extrasystoles and other forms of arrhythmia by regulating heartbeats, balancing fluid and electrolytes (especially sodium) and lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. The excellent content of magnesium in pumpkin seeds further exerts a calming effect on the nervous system which contributes to relaxation and helps reduce the frequency and severity of both palpitations and extrasystoles. Find out more about Extrasystoles: Symptoms Causes and Remedies.
5) Boost energy levels and restore vitality. Eating pumpkin seeds helps reduce tiredness, combats fatigue and ups energy levels as well as restores vitality. All of these effects are owed primarily to the seeds’ B vitamins and mineral profile. B vitamins are required for the synthesis of various elements from food: amino acids from protein, fatty acids from lipids or fats and glucose from carbohydrates. By regulating how the body processes these elements from food, B vitamins ensure optimal absorption and energy production.
Iron has a strong revitalizing effect and combats anemia-associated fatigue through its role in oxygen transport from lungs to tissues. Vitamin B9 shares the same beneficial action through its role in red blood cell production (red blood cells are the means to oxygenate tissues, with the help of iron). Other minerals exert a tonic, energizing action, especially minerals such as magnesium and potassium which act directly on the cardiovascular system. Lastly, protein and fat provide sustained energy over longer periods of time.
6) Improve sleep. The magnesium in pumpkin seeds exerts a calming effect on the nervous system by regulating nerve conduction and induces relaxation, promoting restful sleep. The mineral further improves micro-circulation and helps with foot and leg cramps at night, muscle spasms and pins and needles sensations. This allows for continued sleep throughout the night. The mineral further combats agitation, anxiety and restlessness, all conducive of restful sleep.
7) Benefits for fertility. In both men and women. Pumpkin seeds benefits for men include improved fertility due to generous amounts of zinc and good amounts of folate (vitamin B9). In women, folate supports cell division and prevents birth defects. Folate is further involved in red blood cell production and, together with iron, supports the expanding circulatory system of the pregnant woman. Magnesium may help reduce risks of gestational diabetes – but remember that diet is an extremely important factor, moreso than just magnesium.
Although not very likely and reduced in occurrence, it’s important to also watch out for side effects. Possible pumpkin seeds side effects may include the following:
1) Weight gain, but only if you eat too much too often. Having butter or oil-roasted pumpkin seeds may accentuate the weight gain as butter and oil boost energetic value.
2) Water retention and puffiness. If you usually have salted pumpkin seeds. Excess sodium causes fluid retention which appears in the form of swollen legs and feet, appearance of a bloated stomach, face puffiness and similar symptoms.
3) They may go down the wrong pipe. This is more likely if you eat fast or have un-shelled pumpkin seeds. The creamy white shells tend to break into fragments easily and may go down the wrong pipe accidentally. It’s advisable to shell the seeds using your hands and then eat the kernels. Also see Food Aspiration into Lungs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.
4) May trigger laryngospasms. A laryngospasm is the (usually) temporary closing of the airways due to a trigger such as allergens, irritants, dry mouth and throat etc. Small particles of food that get trapped in the throat lining, causing irritation and coughing can also lead to the onset of a laryngospasm. One such example are fragments of the creamy white seed shells which tend to stick to the throat lining. From there, they trigger the coughing reflex and cause irritation and, after a while, dry throat, potentially bringing about an episode in predisposed individuals. Find out more about Laryngospasm: Symptoms, Causes and Remedies.
5) Stomach ache, cramps, bloating, diarrhea. If you’re not used to having too much fiber, then expect some reactions if you indulge in pumpkin seeds. With an average of 6.5 g of dietary fiber for every 100 g, the kernels are an important source and can trigger some degree of gastrointestinal upset.