I’m super excited once again to be joining with some blogger friends to write our monthly veg-cation. The purpose of this monthly “veg-ucation” is to highlight the health benefits of a delicious vegetable and each share an amazing way to eat it.
This month our featured vegetable is Pumpkin.
With Halloween so close, how could we not celebrate this festive, orange fare?! Pumpkin is incredibly versatile and tastes delicious in dishes both savory and sweet. This fall, my family and I have enjoyed Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal, Pumpkin cookies (that a friend made…they were amazing) and even Pumpkin Trifle. I’ll be honest with ya. I’m a little pumpkin-ed out.
My mother-in-law carved a pumpkin this weekend with Ezra and while cleaning up the seeds and guts, I realized I could tweak this month’s Pumpkin vegucation and highlight pumpkin seeds instead! It’s still pumpkin, right!?
Pumpkin Seeds are CRAZY GOOD for you.
1. Pumpkin seeds are FULL of magnesium.
Magnesium is an important mineral, but nearly 80 percent of Americans are deficient in it. Pumpkin seeds are a great way to get more magnesium in your diet! Actually, only 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds meets half of the recommended daily intake. Wowza. Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of Magnesium Miracle shares why magnesium is so important.
“Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis [2-3]. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines. Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys.” (Source)
2. Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants!
“ Pumpkin seeds contain conventional antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E. However, not only do they contain vitamin E, but they contain it in a wide variety of forms. Alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol are all forms of vitamin E found in pumpkin seeds. These last two forms have only recently been discovered, and they are a topic of special interest in vitamin E research, since their bioavailability might be greater than some of the other vitamin E forms. Pumpkin seeds also contain conventional mineral antioxidants like zinc and manganese. Phenolic antioxidants are found in pumpkin seeds in a wide variety of forms, including the phenolic acids hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acid. Antioxidant phytonutrients like lignans are also found in pumpkin seeds, including the lignans pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinol.” (source)
3. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc.
Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system. This mineral supports growth and development during childhood and pregnancy and is also important for men’s reproductive and prostate health.
4. Pumpkin seeds contain plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids.
According to Dr. Frank Sacks, of Harvard Nutrition Department,
“We need omega-3 fatty acids for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain, and since our bodies cannot make omega-3 fats, we must get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with many health benefits, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. New studies are identifying potential benefits for a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.”
5. Pumpkin seeds may help improve menopause symptoms.
According to one study, post-menopausal women saw a decrease in severity of hot flashes, headaches and joint pain. (source)
6. Pumpkin seeds help with insomnia.
The seeds of the squash are high in tryptophan. In a 2005 study, butternut squash seeds (eaten with carbohydrates) turned out to be as effective as a pharmaceutical-grade tryptophan (eaten with carbohydrates) in treating insomnia. (source)
How To Eat Pumpkin Seeds
You can consume pumpkin seeds raw, but soaking them first in salted water and dehydrating them reduces naturally occurring enzyme inhibitors and phytates that are found in nuts and seeds. This will improve digestibility.
This spiced pumpkin seed and nut mix makes a great holiday gift! Just fill a small mason jar with them, tie a bow made of raffia and voila!
Soaking the Pumpkin Seeds and Nuts
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw walnuts
unrefined sea salt
For the Glaze
1 egg white
3 Tablespoons maple syrup, preferably grade B
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
To Soak the Pumpkin Seeds and Nuts
In a large bowl, add raw pumpkin seeds, walnuts and pecans. Mix with 1 tablespoon of unrefined sea salt. Pour enough warm, filtered water over the seeds and nuts to cover them. Soak for 7-24 hours.
To Dehydrate the Pumpkin Seeds and Nuts
After soaking, drain the pumpkin seeds and nuts completely.
Whisk the egg white in a large bowl until frothy. Whisk in the maple syrup, seasonings and rosemary. Add the nuts/seeds and toss to coat them thoroughly.
Put the coated nuts/seeds on the tray and put them in the dehydrator for 12-24 hours at a setting of 105-150 F until they are crisped to your liking. If you do not have a dehydrator, place the nuts in the oven set at the lowest temp (preferably below 150F) for 12-24 hours until they are crisped to your liking.
1.If your oven does not set to 150F, put it on the lowest setting. Seeds/nuts will dehydrate more quickly, so just watch them. Heating them above 150F will destroy enzymes, but soaking them still breaks down anti-nutrients.
2. If you do not want to soak/dehydrate nuts:
Whisk the egg white in a large bowl until frothy. Whisk in the maple syrup, seasonings and rosemary. Add dry, raw pumpkin seeds and nuts, and toss the nuts/seeds to coat them thoroughly. Bake in the oven at 350F for 20-25 minutes.
3. Use parchment paper on the tray for easy removal of nuts/seeds
For other Pumpkin Ideas, check out these other great recipes:
Pumpkin Custard from The Savory Lotus
Grain-free Stuffed Pumpkin from Eat Your Beets
Pumpkin Chocolate Chili from Storybook Reality
Maple-Spiced Pumpkin from The Rising Spoon