What are pumpkin seeds?

Pumpkin seeds or pepita are the edible seeds of (surprisingly!) pumpkins or other squashes. They are flat and asymmetrically oval in shape with a whitish outer hull. They are available as either the hulled kernel or the unhulled whole seed. Usually, in the UK, we buy them as the hulled green kernel.

They are highly nutritious! When you’re carving your pumpkin next Halloween, save the seeds and roast them. They’re a joy and throwing them away really is a crime!

Health benefits

Like other whole foods, pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants. This can help to reduce inflammation and protect against harmful free radicals that have been linked to diseases such as stomach, breast, prostate and lung cancers.

Several studies have shown that pumpkin seeds help relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic enlargement. This is a condition where the prostate gland in men enlarges, causing problems urinating. In both genders, they can improve the symptoms of an overactive bladder.

As one of the highest natural sources of magnesium, with around 80g containing about half your recommended daily intake, pumpkin seeds can help control blood pressure. They can reduce the risk of heart disease, maintain healthy bones and regulate blood sugar levels, which is especially important for diabetes sufferers.

Like walnuts, pumpkin seeds can help you sleep as they are a natural source of the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin.

The World Health Organisation recommends eating pumpkin seeds as a source of zinc. It’s best to eat them whole to maximise your zinc intake as it’s difficult to separate the zinc-rich endosperm layer of the kernel from the shell. Zinc is essential throughout the body for the immune response, wound healing, development of the foetus during pregnancy and childhood development and to enhance the action of insulin in blood glucose regulation.

Try to include this superfood into your diet every day – you won’t be sorry you did.

Recipes

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw or cooked in both sweet and savoury recipes.

The easiest way to incorporate pumpkin seeds into your diet is to roast them. When you scoop them out of your pumpkin to make way for the tea light, wash them and clean away the strands of pumpkin flesh before laying them on a baking tray, adding a glug of olive oil, sprinkling sea salt, fennel seed and chilli flakes (or spices of your choice) over them and mixing well. Now bake them at 180C for ten minutes, allow to cool and enjoy.

You can sprinkle the seeds over soup or salad to add a bit of crunch, mix them into yoghurt and smoothies or include them in a homemade granola together with nuts and dried fruit.

Pumpkin seed butter is a lovely alternative to peanut butter. It’s easy to make. Just blend the seeds whole and raw in a food processor until smooth.

Energy ball recipes including pumpkin seeds: