Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)

Pumpkin seeds have recently gained a little notoriety in the health food industry.  I used to eat them all the time when we lived in California.  Even local chain restaurants there used to have this on their salads on a regular basis.  When I moved back to NY, it seemed as though no one had ever heard of them (which I found very unfortunate), especially by the name "pepitas."  Truth is though, these fun little seeds pack a ton of nutrition, they are crunchy, portable and very versatile.

Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) - this brand is sprouted

Pumpkin Seed (Pepita) Facts:
  • These little seeds were used back in the times of the Aztecs in Latin America.
  • They have been and are still used in making certain Mexican "mole" recipes.
  • The term "pepita" typically refers to roasted and salted seeds.  
  • Pepitas have their white outer shells removed (they are "hulled").
  • In one little ounce (about 2 Tablespoons) they have 7 GRAMS OF PROTEIN!!! That will help stabilize your blood sugar & give you energy!
  • High in Mononsaturated fatty acids and Omega 3's & Omega 6's - those are the fatty acids that are "good," raising your HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • They contain an incredible level of iron!
  • They have a high level of calcium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, niacin and zinc (zinc specifically helps with bone density), among others.
  • They are high in a lot of the B-Vitamins, Vitamin E (lipid-soluble antioxidant) and Vitamin K.
  • They have beta-carotene, which can be converted to Vitamin A in the body.
  • They are high in leutein (which you have heard helps to protect the eyes).
  • They are high in fiber.
  • It is thought (although not scientifically proven yet) that these little seeds have anti-inflammatory properties - they are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • They are thought to aid in prostate health, help protect the liver and help decrease the risk of certain types of cancer.
  • They are relatively inexpensive and can be found in the health food section of most larger grocery stores, at health food stores and can even be found in the bulk food section at some stores.

Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds (this brand is LivingIntentions)
What Are Sprouted Seeds?
  • A lot of nuts and seeds contain a compound called phytate (an enzyme), which stops the seeds from sprouting too early.  This also makes them difficult to digest.
  • When seeds are soaked, they release this phytate enzyme that tells the seed it is ok to germinate.
  • This process helps release nutrients and flavor compounds.
  • When soaking, the seeds are also salted, which helps the enzyme process work correctly.
  • Once soaked for a few hours, they are then dried in a food dehydrator (under a certain temperature as to not damage the enzymes from heat).
  • Your body can now absorb the nutrients, vitamins and minerals more readily, it can digest them easier and they taste phenominal!!!

Want To Make Your Own Sprouted Seeds?
  • Purchase raw pumpkin seeds (shelled) - they should be green in color
  • They should be un-roasted.
  • Soak in salted water for about 6-8 hours.  *I tend to go conservative on the amount of salt when I make foods myself.
  • Drain thoroughly on paper towels.
  • Place in food dehydrator and let dry completely.
Applications for Pumpkin Seeds/Pepitas Sprouted or Non-Sprouted:
  • Can be added to salads for a nice & crunchy note.
  • Can be ground up and made into a "seed butter" much like sesame seed paste (tahini) - which is similar to nut butters such as peanut butter or almond butter.
  • Add it to trail mix for a boost of protein/nutrition.
  • Add it to your meatloaf or any mixed item for added texture and nutrition.
  • Add to turkey stuffing.
  • Wonderful addition to smoothies or juices.
  • Eat a handful plain as a snack.
  • Add to items like potato salads for an added crunch & color.
  • Crush them and use as part of a "breading" for chicken or fish.
  • Use them as the nut component when making your own pesto.
  • Add to cookies, cakes, scones, muffins, or anything else that may have the addition of nuts and/or seeds.

Nutrition Facts for Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds:
Serving Size: 1 oz (28g)

Calories: 148
Total Fat: 13g
    Saturated Fat: 2g
    Trans Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 234mg
Total Carbohydrates: 5g
    Dietary Fiber: 1g
    Sugars: 0g
Protein: 7g

Vitamin A: 2%
Vitamin C: 1%
Calcium: 1%
Iron: 23%
(based on a 2,000 calorie diet)


  1. Pimpkin seed is my favorite seed to feast on. I really love it so much and this is the first time I read that it might possibly help men in preventing build-up of prostate cancer which is similar on the effects from saw palmetto berries. I hope this research is really true so my husband will love to hear this.

    1. Thanks for the comment Diana :) I really do hope that all of the latest health research on these great little seeds does hold to be true. Anything that comes from nature and isn't processed always has a better chance of being healthier for you. Best of luck to you and your husband!

  2. I love pumpkin seeds and now they are great for you, but I just had one question. If I buy my pumpkin seeds raw like out of a bin at Sprouts, do I not get the same nutritious vitamins and minerals if I didn't soak them? I usually just buy the raw ones and add to my recipes, but should I soak them first? What if I don't have a food dehydrator? Thanks for the helpful info!

    1. Hi Alexis! I was actually surprised as well to hear that sprouted seeds are much healthier for you than raw seeds. All of these years that I had been eating raw seeds thinking they were the best and there was something better! It does make sense though. Any time you can break down a food and release its enzymes into a readily available form, you are better off. Sprouted grains are also healthier for you as well.
      If you don't have a food dehydrator, I would recommend just buying the sprouted seeds. When dehydrating foods, the temperature has to be low and it is a slow process. If you raise the temperature too high, it starts to damage the volatile oils in the products, thus making it less nutritious than it originally was.
      BUT you can always feel confident in consuming raw seeds - they are still nutritious in many ways (and less expensive than sprouted too).
      Best wishes! :)