Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds,
Are Pepitas Good for the Prostate?

benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds

Last Updated: Oct 21, 2018

Pumpkin seeds are the edible olive-green seeds produced by pumpkins, a type of squash cultivar. Also known by their Spanish name "pepitas", the pumpkin and its seeds have been utilized for centuries by cultures of North and South America, as a dietary food source and for their medicinal attributes.

The pumpkin is believed to be one oldest domesticated squash species which occurred about 10,000 years ago in Oaxaca, Mexico. Evidence suggests that squashes like pumpkin were cultivated even before the two sister crops, maize and beans.

Different pumpkin varieties have seeds of varying sizes and textures. Most however have a similar subtly sweet nutty flavor.

As far as the list of nut and seeds goes, pumpkin seeds are not considered a high risk food allergen. They are also slightly less acidic than other types. Included along with sunflower seed and flax, they are likewise an approved plant-based protein and fat staple when restoring healthy gut bacteria.

What are Pumpkin Seeds?

The main variety of pumpkin most frequently grown for its seeds is the Cucurbita pepo species, yielding types of winter squash as well as summer squash subspecies. Cucurbita pepo comes from the genus Cucurbita or gourd family, which also includes the major squash plant species like Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata.

When pumpkins are cut open the seeds are wrapped up in stringy orange pulp but can be easily scooped out and separated.

The actual smooth flat green kernel is enclosed within a thin off-white shell or hull. Commercial seeds are commonly sold with the shell removed.

austrian-pumkin-seeds-Styrian

What are Heirloom Austrian Pumpkin Seeds?

An increasingly popular variety of pumpkin seeds comes from an Austrian Cucurbita pepo species called the Styrian pumpkin. The pumpkin itself is a striped orange and green color.

Austrian pumpkin seeds are hull-less or "naked-seeded" and grow directly inside the pumpkin producing large dark green seeds that have a thick dense texture. They are believed to have a superior nutritional profile compared to other types.

Although originally developed in the state of Styria in southeast Austria, these pumpkins do grow in other squash conductive climate zones. The Styrian pumpkin is primarily grown and harvested for its seeds as the pulp is less palatable.

benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds-pumkin

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

High in Zinc and Good for the Prostate?

One of the claimed health benefits of pumpkin seeds is that they contain high amounts of the prostate supporting mineral zinc.

Natural dietary sources of zinc are known to be nourishing to the male prostate, a gland which holds the highest concentrations of zinc in the body. They are therefore often recommended for men's prostate support, especially for middle-aged males.

Decreased levels of zinc have been associated with increased risk of prostate carcinoma. (*)

Zinc is also a primary "antioxidant nutrient", required for many enzymatic activities as well as assists in a host of other functions such as energy metabolism, immune response, tissue growth and repair.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8 mg a day for adult females and 11 mg a day for adult men. This amount however can be lower or higher depending on one's age, diet and health condition.

Pumpkin Seeds and Zinc Content

It's true that the kernels do contain a greater ratio of zinc than other plant-based sources. One ounce of raw pumpkin seeds, according to nutritional data, is recorded to have about 2.1 mg of zinc or about 14% the Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

However, when compared to other nut and seed selections, they are not top on the list for the zinc mineral. We discovered by comparison that hemp seeds are actually much higher in zinc at about 5.0 mg per ounce or about 34% the Daily Value. Sesame seeds also appear to be comparable to pumpkin seeds. (*)

Quality may play an important factor as the amount of zinc in some Austrian pumpkin seeds, as listed on Nutrition Fact labels, is about 19% DV per ounce serving, which is closer to that of hemp seeds.

Zinc Content Compared to Other Nuts and Seeds
(One Ounce - mg/%DV)

Hemp Seeds -5.0mg, 34%
Sesame Seeds - 2.2mg, 14%
Pumpkin Seeds - 2.1mg, 14%
Pine Nuts - 1.8mg, 12%
Cashews - 1.6mg, 11%
Brazil Nuts - 1.1mg, 8%
Pecans - 1.3mg, 8%

Chia Seeds 1.0mg, 7%
Sunflower Seeds - 1.4mg, 9%
Walnuts - 0.9mg, 6%
Almonds - 0.9mg, 6%
Hazelnuts - 0.7mg, 5%
Pistachios - 0.6mg, 4%
Macadamia - 0.4mg, 2%

High in Magnesium and Source of Plant-Based Protein

Yes, pumpkin seeds are a relatively good source of zinc, but what they are really high in is magnesium. A one ounce serving of raw pumpkin seeds contains approximately 150 mg of magnesium or 37% of the Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

It is estimated that almost "two-thirds of the population in the western world is not achieving the recommended daily allowance for magnesium." (*) A mineral deficiency of which is associated with certain health disorders. 

Adequate dietary intake is studied beneficial, not only for heart health, but also for managing diabetes, calcium absorption, bone formation and shown useful for relieving hypertension, anxiety, migraines and PMS.

Higher in Protein Content

Likewise, one of the benefits of pumpkin seeds is that they are also a protein-rich variety, containing approximately 6.9 grams per one ounce serving.

They are not quite as high as hemp seeds (10.3 grams/ounce), but they are top on the list when compared to other nut/seed selections.

pumpkins-seeds-in-bowl

Contain Prostate Supporting Compounds, Like Cucurbitin

In traditional folk medicine, pumpkin seeds were used as remedy for various conditions of the urinary system, in addition to the prostate. Modern-day science also in fact backs up this medicinal use.

Two of the major components investigated are cucurbitin, which is standardized for most seed extracts, and cucurbitacin E, an anti-inflammatory and triterpene common to pumpkin and gourd species. (*)

Pumpkin seeds, and especially their extracts and oils, have been researched beneficial for benign prostatic hyperplasia, an age-related prostate enlargement condition that can cause difficulty with urination.

According to some reports, this is due to certain lignans as well as phytosterols found in pumpkin seeds like beta-sitosterol. These compounds not only believed to be helpful for men, but pumpkin seeds and oils are also a source of phytoestrogens, which can also offer benefit to postmenopausal women. (*)

Other evidence additionally indicates that pumpkin seeds and pressed oils also contain constituents that can prevent the body from converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, which can contribute to prostate enlargement.

In some research, pumpkin seed oil supplementation over a 24-week period was shown to have a positive anabolic outcome for men with mild to moderate male androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness.

Scientific Research on Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds for Prostate

Keep in mind that most of the current scientific investigation to date is on the oils and extracts, not directly on the seeds themselves.

In an earlier study, pumpkin seed extracts containing the pumpkin seed-derived compound showed usefulness for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia. Likewise, in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on middle-aged men, pumpkin seed oil was used in combination with saw palmetto oil and again confirmed to be helpful for BPH. 

In another 12-month study, the actual pumpkin seeds were identified to have medicinal potential and "led to a clinically relevant reduction in IPSS [International Prostate Symptom Score] compared with the placebo."

pumpkin-seeds-with-shell

Traditional Food for Intestinal Parasites

One of the less known but traditional folk uses of pumpkin seeds is their influence as an antiparasitic food source. The cucurbitin compound as well as cucurbitacin B, cucurmosin, other saponins and antimicrobial lignans like pinoresinol, medioresinol, and lariciresinoare are believed to be some of the components responsible for the seeds anthelmintic properties.

Cucurbitin, according to sources, causes "degenerative changes in the reproductive organs of parasitic flatworms called flukes." (*)

The benefits of pumpkin seeds and their extracts have been studied effective as a dietary treatment for parasitical conditions and were shown to be helpful in the control of gastrointestinal nematode parasite infections.

In one human study, pumpkin seed extracts treated a woman carrying a pork tapeworm known as T. solium. according to some research, they were able to expel canine tapeworms and other intestinal parasites. (*)  In addition, according to other research, they were able to expel canine tapeworms and other intestinal parasites. (*

Higher Nutritional Value in Raw Pumpkin Seeds

It is best to go for pumpkin seeds in their "raw state" as opposed to "roasted", which according to nutrition data has less protein and over half the amount of magnesium.

Nutrition data of roasted pumpkin seeds without salt contains 5.2 grams of protein, 1.7g less protein than raw seeds and 73.4 mg of magnesium, about 77 mg less than raw unroasted. (Source)

Other Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

Pepitas are naturally high in manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, vitamin K, zinc and potassium.

Other nutritive benefits of pumpkin seeds include being a source of calcium, selenium, B vitamins and the antioxidants vitamin E and beta-carotene.

Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
(One Ounce (28g) of Raw Hulled Seeds)

Manganese - 0.9 mg, 43%
Magnesium - 150mg, 37%
Phosphorous - 332mg, 33%
Iron - 4.2mg, 23%

Copper - 0.4mg, 20%
Vitamin K - 14.5 mcg, 18%
Zinc - 2.1mg, 14%
Potassium - 228mg, 7%

Contains Good Amounts of Tryptophan

Pumpkin and squash seeds are considered good plant-based source of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin and then melatonin, the "sleep hormone."

At 121 mg per ounce of dried raw seeds, it is slightly higher than other seed/nut varieties. (*)

pumpkin-seed-oil

About Pumpkin Seed Oil

The oil from pumpkin seeds is sometimes pressed and used as a type of dietary oil. Quality pumpkin seed oil is always cold pressed and derived from raw pumpkin seeds, not roasted. This is to avoid destroying polyunsaturated fats and other nutrients.

Pumpkin seed oil is a source of carotenoids, phenolic compounds, vitamin E (including a full range of tocopherols), fat soluble minerals and the essential fatty acids, Omega-6 and Omega-3. There is, however, a far greater ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 at about a 35:1 ratio. (*) So, it isn't a particularly good source of Omega-3 or alpha-linolenic acid like many manufacturers claim.

Again, to preserve nutritional value it is best consumed in its raw state, in dressings or drizzled over foods, not used as a cooking oil. Pumpkin seed oil is popular delicacy utilized in Slovenia and Austria in salad dressing, desserts and added to pumpkin soup.

How to Use

For optimal nutritional uptake, sometimes it is best to soak the seeds in water and strain out the digestive inhibitors, like phytic acid, so that enzymes like protease can completely digest protein content.

Pumpkin seeds are also available as a pre-sprouted (or pre-soaked) variety.

Soaked and strained pumpkin seeds can be utilized in different ways.

  1. Processed for seed cheeses, pates and pesto's
  2. Blended into shakes or nut milks
  3. Used in dehydrated cracker recipes or granola
  4. Dehydrated whole as crunchy snack or marinated w/ spices

Visit our DIY steps for making your own dehydrated pumpkin seeds straight from the pumpkin.

Or, our break down of nut and seed nutrition data.

Precautions:

Avoid pumpkin seeds if you have allergies to members of the squash family. Consult your healthcare professional before making major changes to your diet if you are pregnant, nursing, have a serious medical condition or are taking prescribed medications.

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