Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk, although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells. Like cantaloupe, cucumber, and squash, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family.
Pumpkins, and their seeds, were a celebrated food of the Native American Indians who treasured them both for their dietary and medicinal properties. The cultivation of pumpkins spread throughout the world when the European explorers, returning from their journeys, brought back many of the agricultural treasures of the New World. While pumpkin seeds are featured in the recipes of many cultures, they are a special hallmark of traditional Mexican cuisine. Pumpkin seeds have recently become more popular as research suggests that they have unique nutritional and health benefits. Today, the leading commercial producers of pumpkins include the United States, Mexico, India and China.
Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of the minerals phosphorus, magnesium and manganese . They are also a good source of other minerals including zinc, iron and “copper”:http://flipper.diff.org/app/pathways/info/986 . In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and vitamin K. Pumpkin seeds are not a commonly allergenic food and are not known to contain measurable amounts of goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.
- Pumpkin Seeds May Promote Prostate Health
Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a condition that commonly affects men 50 years and older in the United States. BPH involves enlargement of the prostate gland. One of the factors that contributes to BPH is overstimulation of the prostate cells by testosterone and its conversion product, DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Components in pumpkin seed oil appear able to interrupt this triggering of prostate cell multiplication by testosterone and DHT. Open for discussion is the relationship between pumpkin seed oil extracts (which could be purchased in the form of a dietary supplement) and pumpkin seeds themselves. The prostate-helpful components found in the oil extracts are definitely found in the seeds; the only question is whether the amount of seeds eaten for a normal snack would contain enough of these prostate-supportive components. The carotenoids found in pumpkin seeds, and the omega-3 fats found in pumpkin seeds are also being studied for their potential prostate benefits. Men with higher amounts of carotenoids in their diet have less risk for BPH.
Zinc is one further nutrient found in pumpkin seeds that might impact prostate function. The fact that pumpkin seeds serve as a good source of zinc may contribute to the role of pumpkin seeds in support of the prostate.
“Pumpkin seed oil and phytosterol-F can block testosterone/prazosin-induced prostate growth in rats.”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17033217?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
“Inhibition of testosterone-induced hyperplasia of the prostate of sprague-dawley rats by pumpkin seed oil.”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822218?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
- Protection for Men's Bones
In addition to maintaining prostate health, another reason for older men to make zinc-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, a regular part of their healthy way of eating is bone mineral density. Although “osteoporosis”: http://flipper.diff.org/app/items/info/349 is often thought to be a disease for which postmenopausal women are at highest risk, it is also a potential problem for older men. Almost 30% of hip fractures occur in men, and 1 in 8 men over age 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture. A study of almost 400 men ranging in age from 45-92 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a clear correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral, and osteoporosis at the hip and spine.
“Magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium levels in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Can magnesium play a key role in osteoporosis?”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18695768?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
“Magnesium, zinc and copper status in osteoporotic, osteopenic and normal post-menopausal women.”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17944055?ordinalpos=18&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
- Anti-Inflammatory Benefits in Arthritis
The healing properties of pumpkin seeds have also been recently investigated with respect to arthritis. In animal studies, the addition of pumpkin seeds to the diet has compared favorably with use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in reducing inflammatory symptoms. Importantly, though, pumpkin seeds did not have one extremely unwanted effect of indomethacin: unlike the drug, pumpkin seeds do not increase the level of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the linings of the joints, a side-effect that actually contributes to the progression of arthritis.
“Effect of pumpkin-seed oil on the level of free radical scavengers induced during adjuvant-arthritis in rats.” Fahim AT, Abd-el Fattah AA, Agha AM, Gad MZ. Biochemistry Department, Faculty of Pharmacy, Cairo University, Egypt.
- Pumpkin Seed Phytosterols Lower Cholesterol
Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.
“Purification and characterization of Moschatin, a novel type I ribosome-inactivating protein from the mature seeds of pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata), and preparation of its immunotoxin against human melanoma cells.”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14672560?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
“Dietary phytosterols modulate T-helper immune response but do not induce apparent anti-inflammatory effects in a mouse model of acute, aseptic inflammation.”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17382351?ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum