Want to sleep better? Improve your immunity? Boost your energy? Then make pumpkin seeds your go-to snack.
All seeds and nuts are superstars when it comes to nutrition, but pumpkin seeds really stand out.
They’re packed full of vital minerals and healthy fats, are inexpensive and have a delicious crunch, particularly when roasted. You can buy them hulled (green, also called pepitas) or unhulled (cream). I’d go for the hulled – they have a little less fibre, but are easier to eat and less chewy. There’s a recipe for my favourite Tamari Toasted Pumpkin Seeds at the end of this blog.
Mother Nature’s Chill Pill
One of the earliest treatments for depression was an infusion of magnesium. That’s because magnesium is an essential brain nutrient, vital for the proper function of nerve cells and brain cells. It also helps relax the smooth muscle that lines blood vessels, so can reduce blood pressure and benefits the heart.
Without enough magnesium, you’re likely to get muscle spasms and cramps, develop weak bones, and have trouble producing enough energy inside your cells.
Despite having plenty of food available, people in Australia may be deficient in magnesium because of their reliance on overly processed food. But just a quarter of a cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half the recommended daily amount of magnesium.
Zinc: your immune mineral
Have you noticed that many cold remedies contain zinc? That’s because it’s key to your immune function, protecting you from infections, cancer and excess inflammation.
If you don’t get enough zinc, you’ll notice your senses of taste and smell will diminish, your sleep may be affected, and your mood may plummet.
And for the men reading, zinc is necessary for the production of healthy, abundant, and potent sperm. Zinc-rich foods help the body produce testosterone, the chief male sex hormone.
Seafood and meat are the best sources of zinc, but pumpkin seeds are also high in this vital mineral. The recommended daily amount is 9.5mg for men, and 7mg for women and 6mg for children aged 9 to 13. Just one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds provides 1mg.
Iron for energy
Fatigued? Weak? Dizzy? Foggy mind? These are all signs of an iron deficiency, the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. What’s happening is that too many cells in your body are struggling for oxygen, as iron is a mineral that carries oxygen around your body in red blood cells. Other signs? Tingling feeling in the legs, pale skin, and cold extremities.
Ladies, you’re most at risk, because of monthly menstruation – losing blood means you’re also losing iron.
The easiest way to get iron is through red meat, but plant sources are valuable too, and pumpkin seeds are a useful source of iron. You’ll get around 8 percent of your daily needs in a quarter of a cup. But to maximise the absorption of iron, have a source of vitamin C too – some fresh fruit would be ideal.
And as a bonus
- A handful of pumpkin seeds will give you plant-based Omega 3 fats, important for heart and brain health.
- Pumpkin seeds can help you sleep. That’s because they contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’.
- They provide you with protein. A great way to boost your protein without eating meat.
- They can make you happy. Zinc, magnesium and iron are all important brain minerals, but pumpkin seeds also contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid linked to better mood and sleep
- Antioxidant power. These seeds contain many different types of vitamin E, as well as incredibly diverse antioxidant phytonutrients that will never be found in a pill.
Tamari Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 – 2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
In a dry frying pan, cook the pumpkin seeds over medium heat until they start to pop. Sprinkle in the tamari or soy sauce, and keep stirring until the sauce dries. Leave the seeds to cool, and enjoy.
Tip: for a sweet version, you can use maple syrup instead of tamari.