By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
India has been famous for her many and varied flora since time immemorial, but it is a very common picture in our country that one part of any plant is very familiar to us but we hardly know the usefulness of the other parts of the same plant and as a result these portions are usually discarded without any hesitation. Consequently in India, an immense variety of indigenous seeds have neglected in spite of having great nutritive value, essential medicinal value as well as physiological utility. One such type of seeds is seed of Cucurbita maxima. Cucurbita maxima has been referred to as pumpkin in various literatures. The species Cucurbita maxima originated in South America over 4000 years ago. Currently this is widely cultivated all across the world. In India this vegetable is grown in abandon. This plant belongs to the family of “Cucurbitaceae”, also well-known as the cucumber family, and typically use their shoots or tendrils to wrap around other objects nearby for support. (1)
What are pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are edible, flat, oval-shaped green seeds. When removed from the flesh of a pumpkin, they can be rinsed and roasted, either plain or with other flavours such as oils and spices, to create a delicious, crunchy snack.(2)
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of healthful oils, magnesium, and other nutrients that enhance the health of the heart, bones, and other functions.
Seeds, in general, are considered excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Plant seeds are also a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and antioxidants.
The fatty acids in pumpkin seeds contain a range of beneficial nutrients, such as sterols, squalene, and tocopherols. Researchers have described the fatty acid profile of seeds, grains, and legumes as “favorable.”(3)
What are the health benefits of pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seed, which are generally discarded during processing are very nutritious and provides best quality oil and excellent source of protein. In addition, they are also a good sources of minerals, dietary fibre, health-benefiting vitamins and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. The unique flavour of pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil is well known and enjoyed all over the world and contribute to the development of aromatic flavour during the roasting process. Due to its high nutritional and health protective values and also for pharmacological activities such as anti-diabetic, antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammation and antioxidant effects pumpkin seed has increasing considerable attention. The high unsaturated fatty acid composition of pumpkin seed oil also makes well-suited for improving nutritional benefits of foods. The pumpkin seeds are richly endowed in macro elements (magnesium, phosphorus and calcium) and moderate amounts of micro elements (calcium, manganese, copper and zinc) and thus the seed could be used as a valuable food supplement. Besides, the pumpkin is economical and a nutrient dense source, the pumpkin seed flour fortified complementary food mix is economical, with highly acceptable sensory qualities and a rich nutritive value. Pumpkin seeds offer a nutritious, sweet, somewhat soft and chewy snack or food additive. Pumpkin seeds are excellent nutrient source filled with minerals mainly zinc, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and selenium responsible for fighting diseases and acts as weapon for fighting diseases such as arthritis, inflammation, prostate cancer etc.(4)
Pumpkin Seeds for PCOS
Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) provide many PCOS fighting nutrients. They contain beta-sitosterol which inhibits the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT which can help reduce hair loss as well as lower cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds also contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our bodies need. These EFAs help regulate hormone function, improve skin and nails, lower insulin levels, stabilize blood sugars, and help regulate periods. Pumpkin seeds are a fantastic source of vitamins A, E, K and B, protein, fiber, iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese, and antioxidants.(5)
The Role of pumpkin seeds in helping the immune system
Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, but they also contain the essential minerals of zinc and magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in helping you maintain a healthy heart and zinc plays a big role in helping your immune system, and is particularly popular among men as it is a prostate protecting mineral. Pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan which the body converts to serotonin to help you get a good night’s sleep. Being well rested and getting 6 – 8 hours’ sleep each night can go a long way to helping your immune system fend off unwelcome illnesses.(6)
“Pumpkin seeds can be eaten alone as a snack or added to dishes for extra taste and a crunchy texture“