Pumpkin Seeds - Pepitas
Pepitas (a.k.a. pumpkin seeds) can be eaten as a snack or added to salads for a little crunch. You can find them roasted, raw or salted, in the shell or hulled. They are incredibly versatile, tasty and most importantly – great for your health!
Many of us are familiar with the thin white seeds of the pumpkin that are pulled out when making a jack-o-lantern. Once these slimy seeds have been harvested they can be served in all kinds of ways - raw, roasted or de-shelled and used in salads or baked goods. Pumpkin seeds can even be made into a healthy oil or salad dressing.
Pumpkin seeds or, pepitas as they are called where they originated from, have been discovered by archaeologists in caves in Mexico dating as far back as 7,000 BC. They were treasured by many Native American tribes who cultivated them for their dietary and medicinal properties. Today, pumpkin seeds can be found year round in most grocery stores. You might find them in the bulk nut aisles, part of a protein bar or even sold as a small snack pack at the check-out.
Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats as well as protein, fiber, potassium, iron and are a great source of zinc, a mineral present in many foods. In our body, zinc helps maintain optimum immune function and wound healing. It is also a component of key enzymes that help preserve vision and protect against age-related vision loss, including macular degeneration. Zinc plays a role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and may be beneficial as a supplement for people with severe diarrhea, sickle cell anemia, gastric ulcers, and acne. In addition, zinc is vital for normal fetal development and the maturation of sperm.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best plant sources of zinc. Other vegetarian sources include dried beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, peas, and whole soy products, whole grains and nuts. Some people wonder if pumpkin seed have too much zinc, but unless you’re eating an awful lot of them, it is doubtful that you’re getting too much zinc: 1/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds gives you 2.57 mg of zinc, about 17 percent of the RDA for healthy adults.
If you are getting too much zinc in your diet, the major concern is that you can deplete your copper stores, as the two minerals compete for absorption into the body. We need small amounts of copper for normal growth and health. Along with iron, copper is required for the formation of red blood cells; it also influences the functioning of the heart and arteries, helps prevent bone defects such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, and promotes development of healthy connective tissue.
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil have been studied for prevention and reduction of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate that commonly affects men as they age. Pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed oil may also offer protection against prostate, breast and colon cancer and may be beneficial for glucose control in diabetics
Pepitas are good for you as long as you don’t overdo it. Keep in mind that while they’re a healthy snack, they’re also high in calories: about 160 for one ounce. Enjoy!