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Condition - Pumpkin seeds – nature’s little wonders!

By Jacqueline Newson BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy

These subtly sweet, nutty and chewy seeds are also known as pepitas. They are flat, dark green and encased in yellow-white husks. Some varieties of pumpkin produce seeds without the husk. Pumpkin seeds are available all year round, but are at their freshest during the autumn months, when they are in season. Pumpkins belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family, along with cantaloupe, cucumber and squash.

The pumpkin fruit is generally grown as a field vegetable crop and the seeds are used to extract the nutritious pumpkin seed oil, as well as being used as a food source. In order to get quality seeds, the pumpkin should be fully mature. Each fruit contains up to 500 seeds with an edible olive green kernel. These are delicious and provide many health benefits.

History

Pumpkin and squash originated in the Americas and were cultivated by the ancient civilisations of Central and South America over 7,000 years ago. Native American Indians treasured pumpkins and their seeds for both their dietary and medicinal properties. European explorers, returning from their journeys, brought back many of the agricultural treasures of the New World. This encouraged cultivation of these celebrated foods to spread throughout the world. However, despite being utilised in recipes of many cultures, they appear to be a particular hallmark of Mexican cuisine. Today, pumpkins are commercially produced in Mexico, India, China and the USA.

Health benefits

Pumpkin seeds are rich in calories, containing 163 calories per ounce. They are also packed with protein and fibre, containing 8.46 grams of protein and 1.8 grams of dietary fibre per ounce.These nutritious seeds have many additional health benefits, containing a number of vitamins and being an excellent source of zinc. One gram of pumpkin seed protein contains as much tryptophan as a full glass of milk. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and phytosterols.

Medicicnal uses

Natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

The phenolic content of pumpkin seeds gives them strong radical-scavenging activity, enabling them to effectively manage the body’s natural inflammatory response.

Healthy cholesterol levels

Pumpkin seeds contain plant sterols.These phytosterols occur naturally in foods of plant origin, and are known to have an effect on cholesterol absorption. Regular consumption of phytosterols may be protective of  coronary heart disease.

Rich source of minerals

Pumpkin seeds are a great way to get important minerals into the diet. They contain potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, copper, chromium, molybdenum and relatively small amounts of calcium and iron. Half a cup of these nutrient-rich seeds contain 92% of your daily requirements for magnesium, a mineral in which many people are deficient.

Culinary uses

Nut Butter

Pumpkin seeds make a delicious nut butter, which can then be used in a variety of ways. It’s the perfect natural alternative to butter and spreads, and can be used in baking too.

Dressings and Dips

Mix pumpkin seed butter with other ingredients to make tasty salad dressings and dips.

Cooking Oil

A thick green-red oil is produced from roasting pumpkin seeds, which has quite a robust flavour. This is usually mixed with other oils as a salad dressing or used for cooking.

Savoury snack

Pumpkin seeds can be toasted and salted as a tasty snack. 


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