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Protect Your Cells with Pumpkin Seeds

Of all the my Halloween memories, one in particular stands out, and that is carving up a jack-o-lantern. Something about digging out the slimy innards of a large squash just says fall to me. I remember after we carved up the pumpkins I would help my mom pick out the seeds from the pumpkin goo so we could wash them and roast them as a delicious snack. At the time, I had no clue that those crispy and delicious seeds were such a healthy snack and a great alternative to all the sweet treats all the neighbors handed out.

 

Here are a few health benefits these little seeds tout:
  •  Good source of zinc, mineral necessary for many aspects of cellular metabolism. Zinc is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes, playing a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for proper sense of taste and smell.
  • Source of many types of vitamin E, including alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, and gamma-tocomonoenol. Though pumpkin seeds are not necessarily the richest source of vitamin E, the diversity of vitamin E forms found in pumpkin seeds provides greater antioxidant benefit than one type of vitamin E alone. Vitamin E protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals (unbound electrons) and is involved in immune function, cell signaling, regulation of gene expression, and other metabolic processes.
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) of Zinc 
and Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
 
Age
Male
(Zinc)
Male
(Vit E)
Female
(Zinc)
Female
(Vit E)
Pregnancy
(Zinc)
Pregnancy
(Vit E)
Lactation
(Zinc)
Lactation
(Vit E)
0-6 months
2 mg 4 mg
(6 IU)
2 mg 4 mg
(6 IU)
7-12 months
3 mg 5 mg
(7.5 IU)
3 mg 5 mg
(7.5 IU)
1-3 years
3 mg 6 mg
(9 IU)
3 mg
6 mg
(9 IU)
4-8 years
5 mg 7 mg
(10.4 IU)
5 mg 7 mg
(10.4 IU)
9-13 years
8 mg 11 mg
(16.4 IU)
8 mg 11 mg
(16.4 IU)
14-18 years
11 mg 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
9 mg 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
12 mg 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
13 mg 19 mg
(28.4 IU)
19+ years
11 mg 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
8 mg 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
11 mg 15 mg
(22.4 IU)
12 mg 19 mg
(28.4 IU)
  •  Very good source of other minerals, such as phosphorus, magnesium and manganese and is also a good source of iron and copper.
  • Some preliminary studies using pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil an extracts have been shown to improve insulin regulation in diabetic animals and prevent some unwanted complications of kidney function. Decreases in oxidative stress likely played a key role in the improvements in diabetic animals.
  • Good source of protein, with a 1 oz. serving containing 8.57 g.
Pumpkin seeds are a great healthy snack containing healthy fats, protein and fiber. A few things to consider when choosing how to prepare your pumpkin seeds include roasting time and choosing shelled or unshelled seeds. Roasting time should be limited to 20 minutes or less because longer times tend to denature otherwise healthy fats contained in the seeds. Unshelled pumpkin seeds contain more fiber and more zinc than unshelled seeds, so if you want to get the most nutrients try eating them with the shell on.
Here are a few ways to incoroporate pumpkin seeds into your diet:
  • Add to sauteed vegetables or stir-fry for a healthy crunch.
  • Sprinkle onto mixed green salad.
  • Top cereal or oatmeal in the morning.
  • MIx with other nuts, seeds and dried fruit for a healthy trail mix.
  • Grind with fresh garlic, parsley and cilantro, add olive oil and lemon juice for a salad dressing.
  • Boost nutrient content by adding to muffins or cookies.
Adding pumpkin seeds to your regular diet is an easy and tasty way to boost the nutritional content of many meals. Keep reading for a recipe for roasting your own pumpkin seeds.
Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin E.” http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc.” 
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
The World’s Healthiest Foods. “Pumpkin Seeds.” www.whfoods.com
Categorized: Newsletter Articles , Nutrition , October 2013

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