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Nutrition

Pumpkin Seeds’ Mental Health Benefits

Here is some background into pumpkin seeds’ potential mental health benefits, including their impact on mood, anxiety, and depression. 

After the first year of COVID, anxiety and depression prevalence increased by 25% across the globe.  

Last month was Mental Health Awareness Month, which is a great reason to stop and remember that conversations around mental health are so important especially in this day and age. As a dietitian, I’m always eager to learn more about the connection between different foods and their impact on our physical and mental health.

If you’re on this site, I hope it’s obvious how much I like all things pumpkin, including pumpkin seeds which is why I’m excited to dive into this topic about pumpkin seeds and their mental health benefits.

Let’s talk more about this small but mighty seed and what you need to know about how they can potentially benefit your mental health. Be sure to also check out my recipes using pumpkin seeds linked below.

This article is in no way meant to treat or diagnose a medical condition.

pumpkin seeds mental health benefits

Pumpkin Seeds’ Benefits for Your Brain

Pumpkin seeds contain valuable nutrients that can benefit your brain and mental health. Over the past several decades, researchers have taken a deeper dive into the connection between pumpkin seeds and mental health, and have found several factors that can make a positive impact. 

Since the brain is responsible for mood regulation, eating nutritious foods that can benefit brain health is becoming more and more important.

General Nutrition of Pumpkin Seeds

The nutrients in pumpkin seeds can contribute to the mental health benefits we’ll dive into more below. Here is the nutrition of pumpkin seeds per 1 oz of pumpkin seeds (equivalent to about 85 kernels).

NutrientValue per 1oz of pumpkin seeds
Calories158
Carbohydrates3g
Protein9g
Fat14g
Fiber1.7g
Magnesium168mg
Iron2.5mg
Zinc2.2mg
Potassium229mg
Tyrosine309mg
Tryptophan163mg

RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance; AI = Adequate Intake

Do Pumpkin Seeds Improve Mood?

Pumpkin seeds may in fact have a positive effect on mood due to these important nutrients, though more research is needed. There needs to be more thorough research specifically around their connection to anxiety, stress, and depression.

The iron in pumpkin seeds may also contribute to improved mood. Iron is required for the enzymes that break down tyrosine and tryptophan to produce dopamine and serotonin, two feel-good hormones we’ll be talking more about later.

Pumpkin Seeds and Anxiety & Stress

The tryptophan and tyrosine in pumpkin seeds seem to play one of the most beneficial roles, as they are the precursors to serotonin and dopamine. Both serotonin and dopamine are known to play a role in regulating anxiety and stress.

Here are a few other ways the nutrients in pumpkin seeds may benefit anxiety and stress reduction:

  • Magnesium: The magnesium in pumpkin seeds may play a role in stress reduction because magnesium can help reduce blood sugar and blood pressure, as well as serve as a nervous system relaxant.
    • Some research has indicated that stress can reduce magnesium levels, and a magnesium deficiency can increase susceptibility to stress. To break this cycle, it’s important to include magnesium-rich foods in the diet, such as pumpkin seeds. 
  • Potassium: Potassium also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. We know that stress can increase blood pressure, so targeting foods that can help lower blood pressure may be beneficial.

Are Pumpkin Seeds Good for Depression?

Research is promising. Dopamine and serotonin play an important role in depression, and recent research that took a closer look at antidepressant foods found that pumpkin seeds had an antidepressant food score (AFS) of 47%. This benefit was believed to be most closely tied to the amount of tryptophan in the seeds. This score qualified pumpkin seeds as a food with antidepressant potential.

Additionally, research also shows that zinc deficiency can lead to depressive-like symptoms. Consuming 1 oz. of pumpkin seeds can provide 27.5% of women’s daily zinc needs, and 20% of those for men to help meet your nutrient requirements to prevent deficiency.

Pumpkin Seeds and Tryptophan: Impact on Serotonin Levels

Tryptophan is an amino acid that can be found in foods, and is a precursor to serotonin. 

In one particular study, people who consumed tryptophan (>10 mg/kg body weight/d) from a mix of tryptophan containing foods including pumpkin seeds showed a statistically significant positive effect on depression, irritability, and anxiety in comparison to when they consumed lower levels of tryptophan (<5 mg/kg body weight/d).

Adults 19+ should aim to consume 4mg of tryptophan per kilogram of body weight per day. So, for a 140 pound adult, this would be 254mg per day. A 1oz serving of pumpkin seeds meets nearly half of this need. 

While more research is needed, many studies have shown that increasing intake of foods with tryptophan can have a positive effect on serotonin levels. 

Pumpkin Seeds and Tyrosine: Impact on Dopamine Levels

Tyrosine is an amino acid that you get from food. It is the precursor to dopamine, so it is believed that by increased food intake of tyrosine, you can in turn increase the levels of dopamine in your brain.

For adults 19 and over, the daily estimated amino acid requirement for phenylalanine and tyrosine is 27mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day. 

For an adult who weighs 140 pounds, this would be 1,718mg of phenylalanine + tyrosine. A 1oz. serving of pumpkin seeds provides 309mg, 18% of your needs. 

How Many Pumpkin Seeds Should You Have Per Day?

Pumpkin seeds aren’t the only food you should rely on to reach the recommend amount of tryptophan. Aiming for a 1 oz. serving pumpkin seeds is a good goal to help you meet nutrient requirements for several nutrients that play a role in mood regulation.

The good news is, they’re super easy to add to salads, sprinkle on top of yogurt bowls and oatmeal or add a handful to a homemade trail mix. You can even use pumpkin seeds to coat chicken or fish for an extra crunch.

So What’s the Verdict on Pumpkin Seeds & Mental Health

Unless you are allergic or have an intolerance, there is no harm in adding pumpkin seeds to your daily diet given the wide range of nutrients available. You may also be setting yourself to reap the benefits of the potential mental health benefits, including decreased anxiety and depression. 

Fun Ways to Eat Pumpkin Seeds for Mental Health Benefits

Read more about the benefits of pumpkin seeds and how to roast and eat them.

Pumpkin seeds are so easy to use in a variety of ways — from sprinkling a handful on a salad, to topping baked goods with. Here are some of my favorite ways to use pumpkin seeds in these delicious recipe you don’t want to miss:

Pumpkin Recipes

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup

Vegan pumpkin soup is made with nourishing ingredients like pumpkin puree, ginger, garlic and turmeric and tastes like fall in a bowl! Made simply in one pot, you’ll love enjoying a bowl on a chilly fall day.

creamy dairy free pumpkin soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds

There’s nothing more delicious and cozy on a chilly fall night than a bowl of healthy pumpkin soup! This vegan pumpkin soup recipe is dairy free with added anti-inflammatory benefits from fresh garlic, ginger and turmeric. Not to mention vitamin A, C, E, fiber and potassium from pumpkin.

When the cold months hit it is extra important to nourish our bodies and to keep our immune system strong, and this turmeric pumpkin soup with antioxidants, vitamin C and anti-inflammatory benefits will help you do just that.

Pumpkin Nutrition

Pumpkin is a fall superfood that adds more nutrition, flavor and texture to anything you put it in. That’s one of the many reasons I love it so much and am pretty much obsessed with it during the fall and all year long!

Thanks to its beautiful orange hue, pumpkin is an excellent source of betacarotene that get converted into vitamin A in the body. We need vitamin A to keep our immune system functioning properly and for good night vision. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin C and E — these two vitamins along with vitamin A are also really good for the skin.

Cozy Pumpkin Soup

Fall is definitely soup season, making this pumpkin turmeric soup a nutritious meal or side dish that warms you up and makes you feel good. That’s what I can nutritious comfort food at it’s very best! Bonus points if you make this sandwich and dip bites into the soup!

Creamy vegan pumpkin soup is the perfect dairy free soup recipe if you are lactose intolerant or do not consume dairy products.

Additionally, what I love most about this creamy vegan pumpkin soup is that it’s seriously so easy to make and requires very few kitchen utensils. It’s a low mess, one pot recipe that you can have for the next 2-3 days! Win, win!

This vegan pumpkin soup recipe gets its creaminess and awesome thick texture from pumpkin puree and oat milk. Oat milk is creamier than other non-dairy milks, more closely resembling heavy cream which is typically found in soup recipes. I used this brand!

creamy vegan pumpkin soup

Ingredients For Healthy Pumpkin Soup

  • pumpkin pureeyou’ll be using the whole can
  • garlic
  • shallot
  • ginger
  • vegetable broth
  • olive oil
  • oat milk or other non-dairy milk
  • maple syrup
  • lemon
  • turmeric
  • pumpkin spice
  • salt and pepper

equipment/utensils

How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Soup

  1. Mince. First, mince garlic, and shallot and add to the soup pot along with olive oil to sauté until fragrant.
  2. Combine. Add the pumpkin puree, freshly grated ginger, turmeric and vegetable broth to the pot and combine.
  3. Blend. Use an immersion blender or regular blender to blend the soup.
  4. Simmer. Next, continue to simmer for 5 minutes while adding oat milk, maple syrup, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
  5. Portion, Top and Enjoy! Remove from heat, portion into a bowl, top with optional toppings and enjoy!

optional toppings

  • cheesy or regular kale chips
  • shaved parmesan cheese
  • toasted pumpkin seeds toasting really helps to bring out the flavor of the pumpkin seeds vs. raw. Add them to a small sauté pan and toast until just slightly golden and
  • baked cheese
  • extra black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • microgreens (aka baby vegetables that are packed with nutrition and flavor!) you can find these at most grocery stores.
  • fresh sage
healthy homemade pumpkin soup with ginger
creamy dairy free pumpkin soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN
Creamy vegan pumpkin soup is made with nourishing ingredients like pumpkin puree, ginger, garlic and turmeric and tastes like fall in a bowl! Made simply in one pot, you'll love enjoying a bowl on a chilly fall day. Don't forget to top with pumpkin seeds for a crunch!
Prep Time 8 hrs 9 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Servings 3 -4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 can 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup oat milk or other non dairy milk of choice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 of a lemon juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional soup toppings:
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • parmesan cheese
  • kale chips
  • microgreens
  • fresh sage

Instructions
 

  • Mince garlic and shallot. Add to soup pot along with oil and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Careful not to burn! 
  • Add pumpkin puree, fresh garlic, turmeric, and vegetable broth. Stir together to combine. 
  • Reduce heat to low and use an immersion blender to blend soup. Alternatively you can remove from heat and transfer the soup (1 cup at a time) to a blender to blend until creamy.
  • Once soup is blended and on low heat, stir in oat milk, maple syrup, lemon juice and salt and pepper. I recommend tasting a spoonful to determine if you need a little more salt or pepper. Simmer for about 5 more minutes.
  • Add soup to a bowl, top with optional toppings* and enjoy! Store soup covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Notes

 * I used oat milk to get the creamy swirl on top. In order for it to work, you want to make sure your soup is warm and use a teaspoon to drizzle the oat milk on top. I haven't tested it with other non dairy milks! 
Keyword pumpkin soup; creamy vegan pumpkin soup; dairy free pumpkin soup; homemade pumpkin soup

more pumpkin recipes you’re sure to love

COOKBOOK

Love everything and anything pumpkin like I do?! Keep up with all things pumpkin this fall with me on Instagram and be sure to check out my new pumpkin cookbook, The Great Big Pumpkin Cookbook available now on Amazon and Target.com with over 50 pumpkin recipes, including gluten free, dairy free, and paleo friendly recipes!

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best homemade pumpkin soup

Pumpkin Recipes

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with a White Chocolate Drizzle

Whole wheat pumpkin muffins with a white chocolate drizzle are perfect for fall! Made with whole wheat flour, fall spices, and pumpkin puree. Topped with a drizzle of melted white chocolate or pumpkin seeds for a crunch.

whole wheat pumpkin muffins with white chocolate drizzle

Nothing screams fall quite like a batch of fluffy pumpkin muffins! Filled with fall spices and that quintessential fall taste of pumpkin puree that we all know and love, I know this pumpkin muffin recipe will be one you make again and again for the season and beyond!

I love having a batch of pumpkin muffins on hand to enjoy with coffee or tea in the fall and this recipe is one I’ve already made multiple times and it’s only the beginning of October! Simply made with whole wheat pastry flour, Libby’s 100% PURE PUMPKIN and fall spices like cinnamon, and pumpkin spice

Top these muffins with a white chocolate drizzle (white chocolate complements pumpkin SO well) or top with pumpkin seeds before baking for a crunch on top. You really can’t go wrong! 🙂

healthy whole wheat pumpkin muffins

PUMPKIN PUREE – ABOUT LIBBY’S 100% PURE PUMPKIN

This pumpkin muffin recipes uses  Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin. It’s what I use in all of my pumpkin recipes! I trust Libby’s when it comes to pumpkin puree because they’ve been the leading producer of canned pumpkin for generations.

Their factory in Morton, IL is 100% landfill-free. They are able to achieve this by recycling pumpkin by-products and incinerating the remaining waste for energy recovery. Pumpkin waste, like rind and skin, finds new life as land applied fertilizer—except for the seeds—those are sold for wild squirrel food.

It’s nice knowing that the process of harvesting a vegetable that can be used in so many different ways is also finding many different ways to ensure as little waste from that process as possible. Pumpkin puree is incredibly versatile and I’m happy to see that the whole process is one that aims to be sustainable.

fluffy-and-moist-whole-wheat-pumpkin-muffins-topped-with-pumpkin-seeds

Ingredients for Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

  • whole-wheat pastry flourwhole wheat pastry flour is lighter than whole wheat flour giving these muffins more of a soft fluffiness that makes them absolutely delicious!
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon 
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • non-dairy milk I like using oat or almond milk because that’s what I have on hand most of the time.
  • LIBBY’S 100% PURE PUMPKIN
  • butter or coconut oil 
  • light brown sugarfeel free to use coconut sugar instead if you prefer.
  • egg
  • vanilla extract 
  • pumpkin seeds (optional) green pumpkin seeds are called pepitas and they’re a great source of plant-based protein, fiber and magnesium.
  • white chocolate chips (optional)

equipment / utensils:

  • one medium mixing bowl
  • one small mixing bowl
  • muffin liners
  • muffin tin
easy whole wheat fluffy pumpkin muffins

Making Pumpkin Muffins Lighter and Fluffy

Pumpkin puree itself helps to make these muffins super light and fluffy! It adds a lot of moisture which ends up giving these muffins that bounciness in the texture.

Another tip for lighter and fluffier muffins? Don’t over mix the batter. That causes muffins to be more dense and chewy vs. light and fluffy! Mix the batter until just combined. If there’s a few streaks of flour that you can still see that’s totally ok.

Ways to Use Leftover Pumpkin Puree

For this pumpkin recipe you will use almost a cup of pumpkin, but that will leave you with a good amount leftover. This is a good thing because there are so many delicious ways you can use it! Here are a few of my favorites:

Storing Leftover Pumpkin Puree

Any time you have a little pumpkin puree leftover and want to save it, transfer the rest out of the can (don’t store in the can in the fridge!) into a container with a lid and store in the fridge for up to a week. This will ensure maximum freshness and usability.

If you’re simply not going to get to the rest of the pumpkin leftover in a can, you can definitely save it for later. I recommend freezing it in an ice cube tray for up to 3 months. You can use the frozen cubes in future soups, smoothies and more.

whole wheat pumpkin muffins with white chocolate drizzle

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins with a White Chocolate Drizzle

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN
Moist, fluffy and spiced to perfect with pumpkin puree and fall spices, these whole wheat pumpkin muffins make for an amazing treat for fall! Sip on pumpkin coffee while you enjoy each bite!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs 11 mins
Servings 12 muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk
  • ¾ cup LIBBY’S 100% PURE PUMPKIN
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter or coconut oil
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds for sprinkling on top

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with liners. Spray the inside with cooking spray to prevent muffins from sticking. 
  • In a medium bowl whisk together the whole-wheat pastry flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate larger bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, melted butter or coconut oil, non-dairy milk, light brown sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and use a wooden spoon to gently mix together until just combined. Don’t over mix!  Muffin batter should be slightly clumpy not totally smooth. 
  • Portion the batter into each muffin well. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds or leave plain to drizzle with melted white chocolate when baked.* 
  • Bake for approximately 22-25 minutes, let cool and enjoy!

Notes

* if drizzling with melted white chocolate chips, melt white chocolate chips in the microwave in increments of 10 seconds, stirring with a spoon in between each time. Use a fork to drizzle over each muffin once cooled.
Keyword pumpkin muffins; whole wheat pumpkin muffins

This recipe was proudly created in partnership with Libby’s. I hope you love it!

more pumpkin muffin recipes you’re sure to love

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best whole wheat pumpkin muffins
Easy Meals

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Pumpkin seed pesto is delicious and nutritious made with toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan reggiano cheese. Packed with plant-based protein, and can be made vegan, it’s flavorful and the perfect complement to pasta, proteins, sandwiches and more.

best pumpkin seed pesto

Summer is pesto season and there’s nothing better then pesto pasta for a fresh summertime meal that’s bursting with flavor! For my take on the perfect summertime pesto, it should come as no surprise that I turned to my favorite seed — pumpkin seeds to make pesto. Move over pine nuts, pumpkin seed pesto is the way to go!

Much more cost-effective than pine nuts, pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrition and a smooth nutty flavor that really complements fresh basil, garlic, and cheese. In this recipe I toast the pumpkin seeds before making the pesto to help bring out their buttery, nutty flavor. Toasted pumpkin seeds add flavor to pasta, chicken, fish and more on their own.

This pumpkin seed pesto can also be made vegan by using nutritional yeast if you’re looking for a cheese alternative.

pumpkin seed nutrition

Pumpkin seeds are small but mighty when it comes to nutrition! They’re packed with plant-based protein, healthy fat, fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc and are easy to incorporate into your diet in a variety of ways.

A one ounce serving of pumpkin seeds contains 7 grams of plant-based protein. This is especially great to keep in mind if you don’t eat meat and are looking for different ways to add protein to your diet. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on a salad, or grain bowl and of course make this pumpkin seed pesto!

I always recommend incorporating pumpkin seeds into a snack anytime you’re feeling a little stressed and here’s why. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium aka the “calming mineral”. Magnesium blocks the activity of stimulating neurotransmitters and binds to calming receptors, resulting in a more peaceful, resting state. I’ll snack to that!

Read more about the benefits of pumpkin seeds and how to roast and eat them here.

ingredients for pumpkin seed pesto

Ingredients for pumpkin seed pesto

  • raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)I love how beautiful and buttery pumpkin seeds get when you toast them! Just a couple minutes in the oven really helps to bring out their nutty flavor.
  • fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • parmesan reggiano – using a nicer cheese is nice in the recipe, however any type of grated parmesan cheese you have on hand will work. I’ve tried it with both!
  • fresh garlic
  • salt & pepper

equipment/ utensils:

toasted pumpkin seeds

making pumpkin seed pesto

Toast your pumpkin seeds: This will really help to bring out there delicious nutty flavor and take away some of that “raw” flavor. After a couple minutes in the oven they will be puffed up and slightly golden.

Add olive oil + garlic to the pan: Adding olive oil to the hot pan when you remove it from the oven will help further toast the pumpkin seeds. The garlic will also slightly toast, helping to draw out the flavor.

Process all of the ingredients: Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. You want to make sure there are no big pumpkin seed pieces left.

Taste: Taste a small spoonful of pesto and see if it needs a little more salt and pepper. Process once more for a few seconds.

Enjoy: Add to pasta, sandwiches, proteins and more!

Store + Freeze: Store pesto in an airtight contain in the fridge for up to a week. If you know you’re not going to get to it all, I recommend freezing pesto in individual ice cube trays. This way you can simply use one cube of pesto at a time anytime you’re in the mood!

Easy pumpkin seed pesto

vegan pumpkin seed pesto

Making this pumpkin seed pesto vegan is easy. Simply swap parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a nutty, cheesy tasting cheese alternative that contains B vitamins, zinc, fiber and protein (about 8 grams per 2 tbsp.).

how to use pumpkin seed pesto

Or maybe the question should be how can’t you use pumpkin seed pesto?! There’s so many different ways you can infuse it into meals and snacks this summer! Here are a few of my favorite ways:

  • tossed with any shape of pasta
  • on a sandwich
  • on chicken or salmon
  • tossed in a caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella
  • used as a dipping oil with sourdough bread

Did I miss anything?! How else would you use this pumpkin seed pesto? Let me know in the comments!

easy-pumpkin-seed-pesto

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN
Packed with plant-based protein thanks to the mighty pumpkin seed, pumpkin seed pesto is flavorful and nutritious and the perfect accompaniment to pasta, sandwiches, chicken and more!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Servings 1 cup

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 + 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and add pumpkin seeds to a sheet pan. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes. 
  • Remove pumpkin seeds from the oven and drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil on to them. Add cloves of garlic to the sheet pan as well to slightly toast from the heat of the pan. Let cool.
  • Add basil, pumpkin seeds, garlic, cheese, additional 1/2 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper to a food processor. Process until smooth. Taste and add additional salt or pepper. 
  • Store covered in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze pesto in an ice cube tray to save for easy use later.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Andrew Zimmerman 
Keyword pumpkin seed pesto; vegan pumpkin seed pesto

more recipes with pumpkin seeds you’re sure to love:

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how to make pumpkin seed pesto
Nutritious Treats

Frozen Blueberry Chocolate Nut Clusters

Frozen blueberry chocolate nut clusters are a no-bake treat made with fresh blueberries, walnuts, almonds, cashews, chocolate, coconut flakes and pumpkin seeds. Fun to make, nutritious, and a great treat for warm weather! 

Frozen Blueberry Chocolate Nut Clusters

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month , and I’m excited to partner with the U.S Highbush Blueberry Council to create this perfect summer recipe. Plus, I’ll be sharing more information on blueberries and brain health.
I always have a carton of blueberries in my fridge or a bag in my freezer because they’re so versatile, nutritious, and not to mention, easy to reach for and snack on! Both fresh and frozen blueberries contain beneficial vitamins and minerals.

What’s cool about these no bake blueberry nut clusters is that they satisfy your cravings for something sweet, salty, and crunchy all in one! Easy to make and the perfect thing to reach for when you’re trying to beat the summer heat.

Blueberry Nutrition

One serving, or a cup of blueberries contributes essential nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and phytonutrients called polyphenols.

Good source of vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps the immune system work properly and helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Good source of dietary fiber: Blueberries contain 3.6 grams of fiber per serving. Fiber aids in digestion and makes you feel fuller faster. Most of us are not getting enough fiber, so adding more blueberries to you diet in fun ways is an easy way to boost your fiber intake, too.

no bake blueberry nut clusters

Blueberries & Brain Health

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month and while it’s great to eat blueberries year-round for their health benefits, this month is the perfect time to emphasize adding them to your breakfast, snacks, and meals in a variety of different ways.

We continue to learn so much about the health benefits of blueberries, and a growing body of scientific evidence is currently examining how blueberries can be a part of eating patterns to support brain health, especially as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.1-4

I know, we as millennials, don’t often think about our brain health, but it is important to think about it not only in terms of setting a solid foundation for our own health, but the health of our older relatives, friends, and parents. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia are common in adults 65 and older and the risk increases with age. Sharing a blueberry treat with those older and wiser than us or simply encouraging them to add blueberries to their grocery list is a no brainer, and something I plan to do with my parents!

This treat packs double the goodness with the help of blueberries and walnuts.

Ingredients for Frozen Blueberry Chocolate Nut Clusters

  • Fresh blueberries both fresh and frozen blueberries contain beneficial vitamins and minerals.
  • Walnuts – research suggests that walnut consumption may be associated with cognitive function. And, substantial research supports the inclusion of walnuts in healthy eating patterns that support cardiovascular health. In fact, supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Dark chocolate / milk chocolate / white chocolate chipschoose dairy-free chocolate to keep this recipe dairy free, if desired.
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
  • Pumpkin seeds pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, fiber and plant-based protein.
  • Sea salt
frozen blueberry nut clusters

How to Make Blueberry Nut Freezer Clusters

Making no-bake blueberry nut clusters is super easy. Simply combine fresh blueberries with your nuts of choice in a bowl and gently mix together until combined. I suggest walnuts, almonds and cashews but you can use whichever you have on hand.

Line a plate that will fit into your freezer with parchment paper and scoop a cluster of a few blueberries and a couple of nuts on to the parchment paper. Smoosh it together so that everything is touching or slightly on top of each other.

Melt the chocolate of your choice in a microwave safe bowl. I recommend melting in increments of 20 seconds, mixing after each time. Use a fork to drizzle the chocolate on top of the blueberry nut cluster making sure to cover each berry and nut so that everything sticks together.

While the chocolate is still melted on top of the cluster, sprinkle shredded coconut flakes and add a couple of pumpkin seeds, along with a pinch of salt. Place clusters in the freezer for at least two hours or overnight to harden

When you’re ready to enjoy, simply pull a cluster out of the freezer and eat! Store clusters in a covered container or bag in the freezer for up to three months.

Easy Ways to Add a Boost of Blue to your Day

  • Add blueberries to your breakfast: Think smoothies, oatmeal, pancakes or on top of toast.
  • Snack on a handful of blueberries: Make your own trail mix with dried blueberries, nuts and chocolate chips
  • Bake with blueberries: Whip up a batch of pumpkin blueberry muffins to share with a friend.
frozen-blueberry-chocolate-nut-clusters

Blueberry Chocolate Frozen Nut Clusters

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup cashews
  • ½ cup dark milk or white chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds pepitas
  • pinch of salt

Instructions
 

  • Line a plate (or something that fits into your freezer) with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine blueberries, almonds, walnuts, and cashews. Gently mix together to combine and scoop out about a 2 tbsp. sized cluster of berries and nuts on the parchment paper. Make sure each blueberry and nut is touching the other so that the cluster stays together once frozen.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate. Heat in increments of 20 seconds and stir between each time period until melted.
  • Use a fork to drizzle the melted chocolate over the entire cluster and sprinkle with shredded coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, and a pinch of salt.
  • Repeat with remaining blueberries and nuts. Freeze for at least two hours.
  • Store covered in the freezer for up to three months.
Keyword blueberry nut clusters

More blueberry recipes you’re sure to love!

References

1Travica N, D’Cunha NM, Naumovski N, Kent K, Mellor DD, Firth J, Georgousopoulou EN, Dean OM, Loughman A, Jacka F, Marx W. The effect of blueberry interventions on cognitive performance and mood: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Brain Behav Immun. 2020; 85:96-105. 

2Bowtell JL, Aboo-Bakkar Z, Conway ME, Adlam AR, Fulford J. Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017; 42(7):773-779. 

3Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010, 58:3996-4000. 

4Wilhelmina Kalt, Aedin Cassidy, Luke R Howard, Robert Krikorian, April J Stull, Francois Tremblay, Raul Zamora-Ros, Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 11, Issue 2, March 2020, Pages 224–236

5Poulose SM, Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale B. Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. J Nutr. 2014 Apr;144(4 Suppl):561S-566S.

6U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2004, March 9). Qualified Health Claims: Letter of Enforcement Discretion – Walnuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No 02P-0292). http://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20171114183725/https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm072910.htm 

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blueberry chocolate frozen nut clusters
Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin Quinoa Soup

This pumpkin quinoa soup will warm you up in a healthy way this fall! It’s bursting with fall flavor, packed with plant-based protein and can be made vegan.

The first fall day the weather dips to below 65 degrees I get in the mood to bake up a batch of pumpkin soup! It’s a quintessential fall food that is equally as nutritious as it is delicious!

Pumpkin quinoa soup is bursting with nutrition from pumpkin, which is full of vitamin A, C, E as well as fiber and potassium. I added quinoa to this soup recipe for a healthy dose of plant-based protein, and a hearty, smooth texture. It definitely makes this soup feel more like a meal versus a side dish and gives it even more filling fiber.

healthy pumpkin soup with quinoa

As you can see, this soup is thick! The quinoa adds to the heartiness! You can definitely add a 1/2 to 1 cup of vegetable broth to further thin it out when you make it or the next day with the leftovers.

best healthy pumpkin soup

I got this pumpkin staub for my birthday from Rob and have been patiently waiting waiting until pumpkin season to use it! It’s perfect for all kinds of fall soups!

This soup recipe is a cook once, eat at least two to three times kind of recipe. The leftovers taste even better the next day and it makes for a great lunch with a side salad, etc. I also love making a “soup bowl” with it, which is basically salmon and greens on top of the soup!

You can also freeze this soup and pull out a portion on a chilly fall night when the mood strikes.

I like that this recipe is made in only one pot and that all of the ingredients are fairly simple. The addition of the coconut milk or yogurt (whichever you prefer) adds a rich creaminess and brightens up the wholesome pumpkin flavor!

simple and healthy pumpkin soup
Serve the soup inside a mini pumpkin for a festive fall touch and one less dish to clean!

Ingredients for Pumpkin Quinoa Soup

  • pumpkin puree
  • vegetable broth
  • quinoa (can omit if you prefer)
  • coconut milk or plain greek yogurt (this is my favorite brand)
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • onion
  • garlic
  • red pepper flakes
  • pumpkin seeds
  • parmesan cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper

I love topping this soup with toasted peptias (aka green pumpkin seeds) because they give it more plant-based protein and vitamins and minerals like iron and magnesium. Most of us are not getting enough magnesium in our daily diets and it helps the body to chill out and relax — so I say the more pumpkin seeds, the better!

Another great soup topper that you may have never thought of are cut up chunks of these Health Warrior Maple Sea Salt Pumpkin Seed bars! Using the maple sea salt flavor cut up on top adds a hint of sweetness and that nice crunch to every spoonful.

These bars are a great option if you’re looking for a plant-based protein bar that’s low in sugar too!

pumpkin soup made with canned pumpkin

healthy pumpkin soup with quinoa

Pumpkin Quinoa Soup

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN
This bowl of cozy pumpkin soup is like a hug in a bowl on a chilly fall night. It's a good source of plant-based protein, plus extra vitamins and minerals from the pumpkin! 
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Servings 4 -6 bowls

Ingredients
  

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil divided
  • 3 cans pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 4 large or 6 medium garlic cloves minced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk or plain full-fat yogurt this is the one I used!
  • ¼ cup pepitas green pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese for topping optional

Instructions
 

  • Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once heated, add the onion, garlic and salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, boil the water for the quinoa.
  • Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. The, pour in the broth, bringing the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, to give the flavors time to marry.
  • While the soup is cooking, cook the quinoa according to the package directions and toast the pepitas over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, and golden making sure they are not burning on the bottom!
  • Once the pumpkin mixture is done cooking, stir in the coconut milk or yogurt. Remove the soup from heat and let it cool slightly. You can use an immersion blender to blend this soup in the pot. I used my Vitamix to blend the soup in batches to get it super creamy.  Add about 1 1/2 cups of soup at a time to your blender, not all at once! Puree until smooth and transfer the soup into another bowl or pot in the meantime and repeat with the remaining batches. 
  • Put the soup back into the original soup pot and add in the quinoa, stirring on low heat until everything combined and warmed. 
  •  Then, ladle the soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle pepitas over the soup and parmesan cheese if using and serve. Let leftover soup cool completely before transferring it to a proper storage container and refrigerating it for up to a week. This soup can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Notes

  • Make this soup vegan by using the coconut milk instead of yogurt and omitting the parmesan cheese.
  • Quinoa not your thing? You can substitute other grains like orzo, rice, chickpea rice, or mini shell pasta. 
  • As you can see, this soup is thick! The quinoa adds to the heartiness! You can definitely add a 1/2 to 1 cup of vegetable broth to further thin it out when you make it or the next day with the leftovers.

Fall In Love With These Pumpkin Recipes Too

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healthy pumpkin quinoa soup
Easy Meals

Kale Cauliflower Power Breakfast Bowl

Packed with high nutrients ingredients and a hint of spice, this kale cauliflower bowl is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner . It’s gluten free and will keep you extra satisfied from the protein and fiber!

This post was sponsored by Nature’s Greens but all opinions are my own! 

To be honest, in this day of meal prepping, I am not a meal prepper! My strategy to make sure I have veggies, grains and proteins on hand throughout the week revolves more around making a larger batch of one thing that can last for let’s say two meals or ingredients that I can use interchangeably throughout the week. I often hear from my clients and followers that eating the same salad over and over again is boring, which is why meal prepping does not work for them. I challenge them with the idea of a prepping a couple things that they like and then as the days go on get creative with those ingredients rather than using them for the same meal three or four times.



The ingredients in this kale cauliflower bowl are perfect for that. It’s hearty, savory and packed with different flavors and textures to help keep you satisfied until your next meal. If you’re New Year’s resolution was to eat more veggies, I challenge you to try this bowl for breakfast once or twice a week. Making the ingredients ahead of time (i.e. the quinoa, cauliflower and even the kale) and top it with a fresh egg it makes it just as quick as grabbing cereal or toast in the morning but way more nutritious.

For me, a filling breakfast really sets my whole day up for success eating wise. If I don’t have something with protein, fiber and good carbohydrates, I find myself hungrier throughout the day which leads to eating way more than I normally would at night. I totally understand that not everyone is a breakfast eater, but if you do find yourself especially famished and or hangry, overdoing it at lunch and dinner, etc, start with something small that contains protein, fiber and is low in sugar for breakfast. Start to see how you feel on days you have breakfast and go from there.

Eating breakfast is not an issue for me but eating greens in the morning definitely is!  This kale cauliflower breakfast bowl is helping me to reap the nutritional benefits of kale. Did you kale is one of the few vegetables that contains protein too? That’s just one of the many benefits this leafy green can contribute to your diet.


With Nature’s Greens kale greens they’ve already done the hard work for you. Their greens are triple washed, and ready to cook and serve. Having a bag in your fridge makes it so convenient to simply add a handful to whatever you are having. Leftovers from dinner last night? Liven them up by putting them on a bed of kale greens! Trust me, it even works for pizza!

If you’re on a kale kick be sure to check out these other kale recipes on my site: kale butternut squash pizza, kale sausage egg muffins, blackberry kale farro salad, and kale pesto!

Kale Cauliflower Power Breakfast Bowl

Kale Cauliflower Power Breakfast Bowl

Maggie Michaczyk, RDN
Wake up with the goodness of veggies and protein in this power breakfast bowl! Spicy cauliflower complements crunchy and nutrient dense kale for a delicious and filling meal anytime of day. 
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Servings 2 servings

Ingredients
  

  •  
  • 2 cups Nature’s Greens Kale Greens
  • 2 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1 head cauliflower cut into 1-inch pieces*
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • ¼ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 2 eggs your favorite way for topping the bowls

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 415 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl remove any remaining stems from kale and add olive oil.
  • Massage oil into the kale with your hands. Then add the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Massage one more time and add to a small pan and saute for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
  • Wash and cut the cauliflower into 1 inch pieces (it’s ok if some a little bigger and some are a little smaller).
  • In small bowl combine the hot sauce, brown rice flour and water. Mix together and pour on top of cauliflower. Mixing until all the pieces are lightly coated.
  • Bake in the oven for 18 minutes.
  • While cauliflower is roasting, cook quinoa according to package instructions.  

To assemble the bowls:

  • Add about 1 cup of quinoa to the bottom of your bowl top with 1 cup of ½-1 cup of kale, ½ cup buffalo cauliflower and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.
  • Cook an egg your favorite way. I suggest either hard-boiled, soft-boiled or fried for this bowl!
  • Place the egg on top and add a pinch more of salt and pepper if desired.
  •  

Notes

*you will have leftover cauliflower from this recipe. I strongly encourage you to add it to something else you are eating the next day!

XOXO

MAGGIE

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Easy Meals

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers with Healthy Honey Mustard Sauce

Gluten-free chicken fingers with healthy honey mustard sauce are crispy and made gluten-free with crackers and pumpkin seeds on top. A delicious, non-boring way to make chicken tenders!

Looking for a quick meal that is fun for the whole family or just for one? These gluten-free chicken fingers with healthy honey mustard sauce are IT! Instead of using bread crumbs to get that classic chicken finger texture, I used almond flour crackers from Simple Mills and pumpkin seeds, which not only add more nutrition but extra flavor too.

Eat these grown-up chicken fingers on top of a salad or simply dip them into the healthy honey mustard sauce for a protein-packed dinner!

Every once in a while I get a hankering for honey mustard dressing or sauce, something I ate all the time with my chicken fingers as a child. I’m not sure if you’ve looked at the ingredients lately, but most honey mustard dressings contain partially hydrogenated oils and other preservatives. There are some healthy alternatives, however most will set you back upwards of six dollars if you buy them at the grocery store and that doesn’t work for me either!

My solution was to make this healthy homemade honey mustard sauce that doubles as salad dressing. It’s made with high protein, low sugar yogurt, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and spicy brown mustard. It’s thick and creamy and perfect for dipping these healthy grown-up chicken fingers into!

gluten-free-chicken-tenders

Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders with Healthy Honey Mustard Sauce

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN
Gluten-free chicken fingers with healthy honey mustard sauce are crispy and made gluten-free with crackers and pumpkin seeds on top. A delicious, non-boring way to make chicken tenders! Perfect for dipping in this healthy honey mustard sauce.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Servings 3 servings

Ingredients
  

  • For the chicken fingers:
  • 1 lb package boneless chicken tenders
  • 1 box Simple Mills Almond Flour crackers
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 3/4 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For healthy honey mustard sauce:
  • 1/2 cup plain high protein low sugar yogurt (I used this exact flavor and brand)
  • juice of half of a lemon
  • 2 tbsp. spicy brown or dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
  • Combine crackers and pumpkin seeds into a plastic bag and using a meat mallet or the tamper from a Vitamix mash the crackers and pumpkin seeds until they are in small pieces. If most of the pumpkin seeds are still whole, that is ok.
  • In a shallow dish, whisk the egg. Add the honey, paprika and salt and pepper.
  • Remove chicken from packaging and start by dipping one chicken tender in the egg mixture and then coating in the cracker mixture.
  • Repeat with remaining chicken tenders and use excess cracker coating to add to parts of the chicken where it might be missing crackers and seeds.
  • Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  • While the chicken cooks, whisk together the ingredients for the honey mustard sauce.*
  • Let chicken cool and dip into sauce. Store the sauce in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

Notes

*This sauce also doubles as a great salad dressing. 

more easy meals you’re sure to love:

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