Pumpkin seeds tend to be synonymous with Halloween, pumpkin "guts" and fall traditions. However, these seeds can actually be found year-round. While traditionally roasted or baked, pumpkin seeds pack quite the nutritional punch fresh out of the pumpkin as well, making them an excellent snack or mealtime addition.
Nutrition of Raw Pumpkin Seeds
Like many other similar seeds, pumpkin seeds are a rich source of protein. One ounce of seeds contains about 9 grams of the nutrient. Raw pumpkin seeds also provide a rich source of fiber, which benefits digestive health and works to prevent constipation. In addition, nuts and seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with many health benefits including heart health and protection against strokes.
On top of being excellent sources of protein, fiber and healthy fats, pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, which is essential in immune function, cell growth, eye and skin health and insulin regulation. Additionally, one-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended amounts of magnesium, which participates in a number of bodily functions. Because these nutrients are not destroyed by heating, protein, fiber and micronutrients are all found in relatively equal amounts in both raw and roasted varieties.
Preparation of Raw Pumpkin Seeds
The easiest way to prepare pumpkin seeds is to simply remove them from the pumpkin and rinse them thoroughly. Because the seeds are contained within the shell of the pumpkin, they are not exposed to any surface contamination or bacteria, making them generally recognized as safe for raw consumption. If you're looking for a departure from the classic roasting traditions, raw pumpkin seeds are a great texture and flavor addition in soups, salads or sandwiches. They also lend themselves well to things such as a homemade pesto, with fresh basil and olive oil, or pureed soups. Simply soak the seeds in water overnight until they soften, blend and enjoy!
It is important to remember that while nuts and seeds provide some great nutrients, they also are relatively high in calories and should be consumed in moderation. So next time you partake in those annual traditions, or as you peruse your local farmers market later in the year, don't be afraid to experiment with these versatile fall favorites.
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.