Carving Pumpkins? Save Your Seeds!
Part of the fun of carving pumpkins is the treat you get after: the seeds. Pumpkins bring back memories of mom rinsing the goop off pumpkin seeds while we put the finishing touches on our jack-o-lanterns. It wouldn't be long before we would be munching on warm, toasty seeds. What I didn't realize as a child was how healthy pumpkin seeds are for you. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, contain a handful of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. It seems that mom does know best, as these seeds are delicious and nutritious. Take a look and see what pumpkin seeds can do for your health.
Immune System Boost
Our body loves antioxidants. They prevent cell damage from harmful free-radicals and reduce inflammation. Antioxidants play a crucial role in protecting our body from disease. Pumpkin seeds contain important antioxidants that give our immune system a boost. They also contain zinc, which is vital to a healthy immune system. If you lack zinc, you are more susceptible to colds, amongst other things.
Reduce Anxiety and Improve Sleep
Just like cold turkey and warm milk, pumpkin seeds have been known to fight insomnia. Tryptophan and magnesium are associated with better sleep and reduced anxiety. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of both. The seeds increase serotonin levels which improve mood, keeping us healthy and happy. So next time your nerves get the best of you, consider snacking on a handful of pumpkin seeds.
Heart Healthy Fats
There are good fats and there are bad fats. Pumpkin seeds are considered to be a good, healthy fat. Omega-3 fatty acid is essential to good health. It is most commonly found in fish; however, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is an Omega-3 that comes from a plant based source such as seeds and nuts. Pumpkin seeds are full of Omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to a healthy heart.
Studies have revealed a link between pumpkin seeds and a healthy prostate. Pumpkin seed oil has shown to block prostate growth and improve BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Part of this has to do with the high zinc content. Zinc plays a crucial role in prostate health. Men with BPH were shown to have lower levels of zinc. A handful of pumpkin seeds is an excellent source of reaching your daily zinc intake.
When you are carving pumpkins this fall, take the time to sift through the ooey gooey innards and salvage the seeds. Give them a good rinse and pop them in the oven. Your body will thank you.
Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe
1 large pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt
dash olive oil
To extract the seeds, cut a hole around the stem of the pumpkin. Remove all the guts, using a spoon to scrape the inside. Separate the guts from the seeds as much as possible. Then, place the seeds in a colander and soak in water. This will help in removing the rest of the guts from the seeds as the guts will sink and the seeds will float. Give the seeds a second rinse.
Lay the seeds out and pat dry. Make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry as wet seeds don't roast well.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the seeds with a light coat of olive oil, about 1 tsp. Arrange the seeds on a baking sheet so they are evenly spread out. Sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 20 minutes or until seeds turn golden brown. Flip the seeds about every five minutes or so to prevent burning. Depending upon size, the seeds may need more or less time. Let cool and serve.