The humble pumpkin seed also known as the pepita. Where do I start? This is one food you want to include in your diet. If you are pregnant or have fussy kids, this little seed needs to shoot to the top of your shopping list.
Why are pumpkin seeds a superfood?
Protein, fats, and fibre
Pumpkin seeds are a fabulous source of protein, plant based omega 3 essential fatty acids, and fibre. All macronutrients are covered in this one little seed. They are also a super concentrated form of vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium and zinc.
Minerals for kids
Both magnesium and zinc are so important for growing children. In my experience, these two minerals are very common deficiencies in fussy kids with poor diets and commonly create a number of disturbances including…
- Poor immune responses (propensity to infection)
- Poor growth and development
- Poor appetite or an appetite only for simple carbohydrates, sweet and/or salty stuff (processed foods). This is a particularly vicious circle as the deficiency drives cravings for the very foods which further deplete their mineral levels. Correcting nutritional deficiency is critical for not only improving the health of a deficient child, but creating a real desire for nutrient dense foods.
- Poor sleep patterns
- Mood and behavioural disorders
- Skin conditions
- Growing pains
- Hormonal imbalance and acne at sexual maturity
Other benefits of pumpkin seeds…
Men… pumpkin seeds, due to their zinc levels are very protective to the prostate. Research suggests that a combination of pumpkin seeds, its oil, and the herb Saw Palmetto is of great benefit in treating benign prostate hyperplasia (enlarged prostate).
Women…During pregnancy, zinc, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids are essential for the health of the mother and development of the baby. Ensuring a mother’s zinc levels are adequate during pregnancy and at birth is so important. According to author Francesca Naish, of the Jocelyn Centre for Natural Fertility management, adequate zinc levels is protective against the development of postnatal depression, helps repair connective tissue trauma, prevents cracking nipples and is important for breast milk production. Babies born with adequate zinc levels are generally more contented and cry less.
There is also growing evidence for the use of pumpkin seeds for the management of the symptoms of menopause.
Both… Zinc is a critical nutrient for both male and female fertility.
Sleep and mood disturbance… Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan which is converted to serotonin (feel good hormone) and then melatonin (sleep hormone). Plus they are rich in magnesium and zinc which both play a role in sleep and mood.
Both zinc and magnesium are involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body. Good energy levels depend upon adequate levels. Pumpkin seeds are also antimicrobial . There is much research to indicate benefits to the heart and liver too.
I really could go on and on, but I think you have the gist? Pumpkin seeds are a very beneficial whole food, especially if you suspect zinc and or magnesium deficiency is at play!
How to include them in your diet…
The obvious way is to just eat them. They can be eaten raw though to really make the most of these important nutrients you might like to consider soaking them.
Soaking pepitas (actually all nuts and seeds) in water with a little salt or whey is important because they contain enzyme inhibitors. Nature made them this way. The enzymes and minerals needed for growth (into a plant) are unstable and therefore, bound in the seed until they are needed. The time they are needed is at germination to enable them to grow into a new plant. So when you soak a nut or seed, the water tells the seed it is time to soften up and get ready to grow, breaking down the enzyme inhibitors so the enzymes and minerals are now available for our use (poor little seed thought it was going to get to grow)!
You can also dehydrate or roast them at low temperatures – I think they taste better this way. Here is a recipe using almonds for some tasty ways to flavour pumpkin seeds. I love these as a snack, they are lunch box safe too. I also often sprinkle them through a salad or the sweet ones over natural yogurt.
My kids actually dislike them raw, so I need to roast them. I also grind them to add a zinc hit to my baking. Here are some recipes where I’ve done this purposefully to increase the nutrient profile, specifically zinc and magnesium of the food…ensuring every mouthful counts.