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12 Reasons Why This Should be Your Favorite New Snack
Wholesome snacks for your family are an important part of a healthy diet. Nuts and seeds are a valuable source of important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other heathy nutrients. They might be tiny, but they pack a powerful punch of nutrition that cannot be beat.
If you are looking for one of the healthiest seeds around, then this article is for you. Pumpkin seeds are often left off of healthy snack lists, but the truth is that these little green seeds are a great source of vital nutrients. They taste so great that your kids will ask for them again and again!
At a tiny 285 calories per cup (that’s 8 ounces, friends. Most people eat only an ounce per day!), they are a terrific way to add lots of nutrition for very few calories. These small seeds contain iron, zinc, magnesium, and a ton of other beneficial compounds. They can do so much more than simply adorn your salad!
Keep reading and find out why pumpkin seeds should be your new favorite snack.
1. Super Anti-Inflammatory
Pumpkin seed oil has been found in numerous studies to have anti-inflammatory compounds. One study, which involved animals, even found that pumpkin seed oil worked just as well as the popular prescription drug indomethacin for treating arthritis. Unlike many prescription drugs, however, pumpkin seeds have no known side effects. Inflammation is an underlying factor of many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and atherosclerosis. Eating pumpkin seeds can help to lower your risk of developing these types of illnesses.
2. Powerful Antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds are full of healthy antioxidants, which are very important in our daily diets because they fight and destroy free radicals, the compounds that damage our cells and cause aging. These little seeds, sometimes called pepitas, are also a rich source of vitamin E, one of the nine known antioxidants that can give us exceptional health.
3. Get Your Rest
One little known fact about pumpkin seeds is that they are a rich source of an amino acid called tryptophan. Your body converts this into melatonin, the sleep hormone. Eating a couple handfuls of pumpkin seeds about 2 hours before bedtime, along with a small piece of fruit or another type of carbohydrate, can go a long way towards stimulating your body to make the melatonin it needs so that you can get a good night’s rest.
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4. Cancer Fighting Compounds
Pumpkin seeds contain substances that are classified as phytoestrogens by scientists. These compounds are found in plants, and they have similar properties to the hormone estrogen, which is made by our bodies naturally. The phytoestrogens in these seeds can help to regulate some of the factors that are involved in the development of breast cancer. They also reduce the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer development. Just an ounce a day is all you need to get all the healthy protection you need.
5. Support for a Healthy Liver
Pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, zinc, antioxidants, and fiber, which can provide much needed support for a healthy liver, especially when combined with flax seeds. Add a tablespoon of ground flax seeds to your morning smoothie, then snack on some pumpkin seeds in the afternoon or evening, and show your liver a bit of love!
6. Heart Healthy Snackin’!
We talked before about the anti-carcinogenic compound in pumpkin seeds: phytoestrogens. These are not only important for protecting you from the risks of breast cancer, they can also play a vital role in lowering cholesterol in the body, which can prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. The journal Phytotherapy Research published a study that found that eating pumpkin seed oil can help to regulate cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds are full of magnesium, a mineral that most Americans have a deficiency in. Magnesium is vital for your heart and for the proper maintenance of blood pressure levels.
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7. Great for Postmenopausal Women
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are rich in phytoestrogens, which are plant-made estrogens that mimic human estrogen. This is good news for women who are going through “the change.” Pumpkin seeds can offer relief from annoying hot flashes, headaches, and joint pains, while it lowers blood pressure levels and increases the HDL (good) cholesterol in the body. Ladies, eat one or two ounces of pumpkin seeds each day for some welcome relief.
8. Anti-Diabetic Compounds
Studies done on animals link pumpkin seeds to improved insulin regulation, which can help prevent complications from diabetes by decreasing oxidative stress. Pumpkin seeds are extremely low on the glycemic index also, which makes them a great snack for diabetics.
9. Here’s Looking at You!
Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of vitamins A and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, all of which encourage and promote healthy vision. Eating pumpkin seeds may be the best thing you can do to protect and maintain your eyesight. One study, published by the National Eye Institute, found that 80 mg of zinc along with other antioxidants (such as vitamin E and A) can lower the risk of developing macular degeneration by as much as 25 percent. Vitamin A and zinc, which pumpkin seeds have plenty of, are also important for the production of melanin, a substance the body makes to naturally protect the eyes, In fact, the American Optometric Association recommends consuming zinc every day to support healthy eyes. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, so find some to munch on!
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10. Immune System Support
Speaking of zinc, one ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 2 mgs of this important mineral. Zinc is not talked about much, but it’s essential to many functions, including cell growth and division, sleep regulation, mood regulation, your sense of taste and smell, insulin regulation, male sexual function, and immune system support. Most Americans are deficient in zinc due to our mineral depleted soils. Those who have zinc deficiencies often have more colds, flus, depression, acne, chronic fatigue, and low birth weight babies.
11. Prostate Health
For men’s sexual health, you can’t beat pumpkin seeds. This is due in part to their high zinc content, which is vital to the health of the prostate, but also because pumpkin seed oil and extracts help to treat an enlarged prostate. Studies have shown that both pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil can be extremely beneficial in the support of a healthy prostate.
Pumpkin seeds, along with other raw seeds and nuts, are some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Although the body only partially converts plant-based ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), they are still an important source of omega-3s, especially for vegans.
The best way to consume these healthy seeds is to eat them raw, not roasted. Eating these seeds the way Mother Nature intended helps them to keep all of their essential healthy fats. Buy and consume only raw, organic pumpkin seeds.
Another important thing to know about all nuts and seeds is that they naturally contain a substance called phytic acid, which makes all of the nutrients listed above less bio-available to the body. You can remove phytic acid simply by soaking your seeds in water overnight to remove the phytic acid. After soaking, you can dehydrate them again by using your food dehydrator or placing them in your oven set at 170 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Remember, all you need is about 1 ounce (approximately 3 tablespoons) to get 50 percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium and manganese, as well as 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of zinc.
Eat up, friends, and pass some to the kiddies!