Pumpkin seeds were a celebrated food of the Native American Indians who treasured them both for their dietary and medicinal properties. While pumpkin seeds are featured in the recipes of many cultures, they are a special hallmark of traditional Mexican cuisine. Pumpkin seeds have a crunchy texture and subtly sweet, nutty flavor.
Recently, pumpkin seeds have become more popular as research suggests that they have unique nutritional and health benefits. The seeds are rich in fiber as well as vitamins B and E. Also, one gram of pumpkin seed protein contains as much tryptophan as a full glass of milk. Other health benefits of pumpkin seeds include:
• Natural Anti-Inflammatory. Pumpkin seeds effectively reduce inflammation without the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.
• Prevention of Kidney Stones. They prevent calcium oxalate kidney stone formation, according to studies.
• Great Source of Magnesium. A 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds contains 92 percent of your daily value of magnesium, a mineral in which most Americans are deficient.
• Prevention of Osteoporosis. Because they are high in zinc, pumpkin seeds are a natural protector against osteoporosis. Low intake of zinc is linked to higher rates of osteoporosis.
• Lower Cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, compounds that that have been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol.
• Improved Bladder Function. In some studies, pumpkin seed extracts improved bladder function in animals.
• Depression Treatment. They contain L-tryptophan, a compound naturally effective against depression.
• Treatment of Parasites. They are used in many cultures as a natural treatment for tapeworms and other parasites. Studies also show them to be effective against acute schistosomiasis (a parasite contracted from snails).
Now, what is the best way to cook and eat pumpkin seeds? While most stores sell pumpkin seeds, it is easy to make your own. First remove the seeds from the pumpkin’s inner cavity and wipe them off with a paper towel. If needed, remove excess pulp and spread them out evenly on a paper bag. Let the seeds dry out overnight.