Pumpkin seeds are small but mighty when it comes to nutrition! Learn about pumpkin seed nutrition benefits, the difference between green and white ones, and how to roast and eat them!
It’s that time of year when big jack-o-lanterns are ready for carving and no matter how you decide to decorate or carve your pumpkin, I just ask one thing—don’t throw out the seeds!
Pumpkin seeds are small but mighty when it comes to nutrition and provide many vitamins and minerals that are hard to get in the diet or that some of us don’t get enough of!
This time of year when green and white pumpkin seeds are abundant, roast them, toast them, or eat them in bar form to reap the nutrition benefits of pumpkin seeds.
7 Key Pumpkin Seeds Nutrition Benefits
There are many fun facts that may surprise you about pumpkin seeds nutrition. Here are 8 key reasons they are nutrient powerhouses!
- They contain 9g of plant-based protein per 1 ounce
- They contain 54% of the RDA for magnesium in 1 ounce
- They contain 14% of our RDA of iron per 1 ounce
- They provide 28% of the RDA for zinc per 1 ounce
- They have 1.7g of fiber per 1 ounce
- They contain 71% of AI for manganese per 1 ounce
- They are a good source of healthy fats, and provide omega-3s
For reference, 1 ounce of seeds is equivalent to about 85 kernels.
RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance; AI = Adequate Intake
1. Plant-Based Protein
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant-based protein. Coming in at 9 grams of protein per ounce, you can easily give any meal a protein boost by adding pumpkin seeds to it.
I love the example of a grain bowl, because I’ll combine pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and quinoa along with other veggies to get a well-round, plant-based protein packed meal. While I do eat meat, I like a nice plant forward grain bowl a few times a week too.
A key mineral for muscle and nerve function, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, magnesium is a super important mineral that most of us are not getting enough of. Magnesium also works as a nervous system relaxant, which helps us to calm down at the end of the day or in a stressful situation.
Pumpkin seeds contain 54% of the RDA for magnesium in 1 ounce — the perfect portion for snacking! Stash them in your drawer at work for times when you’re feeling irritable and stressed and need a little magnesium boost!
Iron is essential for blood production and specifically transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Pumpkin seeds contain 14% of our RDA of iron per ounce serving. Women need more iron per day, and almost 10% of us are iron deficient. Adding pumpkin seeds to the diet on a regular basis is one thing we can do to prevent deficiency.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, a nutrient that is essential for healthy immune function and to make the proteins of our DNA. Coincidence that pumpkin season and cold and flu season happen at the same time? I think not! Evidence suggests that if zinc lozenges or syrup is taken within 24 hours after cold symptoms start, the supplement can help shorten the length of colds.
Inadequate zinc levels are also associated with reduced sperm quality and an increased risk of infertility in men –with over 20% of the RDA for zinc for men (and 28% for women), pumpkin seeds may be able to prevent deficiency.
Fiber is essential for healthy digestion and satiety, and something many of us also don’t get enough of on a daily basis. Pumpkin seeds contain 1.7 grams of fiber per ounce plus since they are easy to put on just about any meal or snack, you can easily add more fiber to what you are eating throughout the day.
Manganese is an important mineral that helps your body make energy. It also helps support a healthy immune system, helps maintain strong bones, and protects your cells from damage.
There is 1.29 mg of manganese in 1 oz of pumpkin seeds, providing 71% of your daily needs!
7. Healthy Fats
Last but not least, we can’t talk about pumpkin seed nutrition without mentioning healthy fats! They contain unsaturated fat (the good kind of fat), including a type of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
This can help reduce inflammation, and increase the good kind of cholesterol, HDL. Fat is also needed to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K, so it’s a great way to make sure your meals are balanced.
What’s the Difference Between Green and White Pumpkin Seeds?
You may have carved a pumpkin only to wonder why those seeds are white and why other pumpkin seeds you’ve seen are green?
Green Pumpkin Seeds
So then you thought pepitas must be the shelled pumpkin seeds right?! Sorry to say this is another no! “Pepitas” meaning “little seed of squash” in Spanish, are actually from a different type of pumpkin than your typical Jack-O-Lantern and do not require shelling. These are the “green seeds” you usually see.
You will NOT find pepitas if you were to remove the white part of the pumpkin seeds from your carving pumpkins, so don’t bother!
Pick them up in the bulk section of my grocery store instead, store them in a big jar in my pantry, and sprinkle those on just about anything!
White Pumpkin Seeds
White pumpkin seeds are seeds that you find in the pumpkins that you carve for Halloween. When the time comes to make your festive carvings, don’t toss out the pumpkin seeds covered in the gooey inside of the pumpkin. Clean them off, then roast or toast them!
Can you Eat the Shell of the Pumpkin Seeds?
Yes, the skins are perfectly safe to eat, however I recommend chewing thoroughly, especially for those with a sensitive stomach!
How to Make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (White Seeds)
Scoop the stringy parts of the pumpkin and the white pumpkin seeds out of a jack-o-lantern pumpkin and get ready to roast them — here’s how!
- Remove all of the stringy parts from the seeds (you may need to rinse them) and pat them dry (v. important!).
- Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees F and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.
- Coat the seeds with 1 tbsp. avocado oil (more depending on how many pumpkin seeds you have), 1 tsp. of salt and your seasonings of choice (cinnamon sugar, pumpkin pie spice, or even everything but the bagel seasoning!)
- Roast for approximately 35-45 minutes, stirring at least one time. Let cool and enjoy your roasted seeds!
***store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container
How to Make Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Green Pepitas)
Toasting the pepitas (aka green pumpkin seeds) really brings out there flavor. I highly recommend it if you are looking to take things up a notch, and it only takes a few seconds.
Place pepitas on a pan with a splash of olive oil and toast on medium-low, constantly turning to make sure the do not burn. Once they are browned and have puffed up a little bit you know they are done and ready!
How to Use Pumpkin Seed Oil
You may have seen pumpkin seed oil popping up at your local grocery store, but can you cook with it? Pumpkin seed oil is more of a finishing oil meaning you should use it in homemade salad dressing, drizzled on top of meat or fish or even popcorn if you like the taste!
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds
- Add them on top of salads
- Add them to grain bowls
- Top soup with toasted pumpkin seeds
- Top baked goods like breads, muffins and bars with them
- Snack on them paired with a banana and almond butter
- Chop them up and use them as a coating for chicken or fish
- Add pumpkin seeds to any homemade trail mix recipe
- Add them to any homemade granola recipe
- Add them to yogurt bowls
One of my favorite ways to eat pumpkin seeds is in Health Warrior Pumpkin Seeds bars. They are great to take on the go and are made with real food ingredients like pumpkin seeds, honey and spices. They come in different flavors like honey sea salt, and dark chocolate coconut almond — you can’t go wrong!
I like to cut them up on top of salads, yogurt bowls, and in this recipe for pumpkin quinoa soup!
Fall In Love With These Pumpkin Recipes Too
Enjoy time in the kitchen making these other pumpkin recipes that incorporate these nutritious seeds!
- Pumpkin Superfood Energy Bites
- Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal
- Better Than Starbucks Pumpkin Bread
- 9 Pumpkin Recipes for Warm Weather
- Healthy Pumpkin Smoothie Bowl
- Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Read more about pumpkin seeds and how they relate to blood sugar control, insulin regulation, and diabetes here on my fellow colleagues blog.