While pumpkins have a reputation as a fun Halloween decoration and appetizing fall food, their use as a food additive year round, as well as their medicinal use, can be relatively unknown. In this age of health consciousness, pumpkin seeds may be something you should consider adding to your diet.
Pumpkin seeds offer a nutritious, sweet, somewhat soft and chewy snack or food additive. Some pumpkin seeds have hulls, while others do not. Like most gourds, they contain the best flavor when in season during the fall months. These flat, greenish seeds can be found at grocery stores; they come packaged or loose in bins. When purchasing seeds, check for moisture or insect evidence. Smell them if possible to check for freshness. They should not smell musty. Stored in airtight containers, they will keep for several months, but they may lose their best nutritional value after one to two months.
To prepare pumpkin seeds yourself, remove them from the gourd and pick off excess pulp. Allow the seeds to dry out overnight on an absorbent material. The next day, roast them at 170 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes to achieve peak nutritional value. You may eat them alone as a snack or add them to vegetables, salads or baked goods. The ground seeds also add nutritional value and bulk to ground meats. Pumpkin seeds are not a high allergen food and should be safe for most people.
Historically, Native Americans used pumpkin seeds as both a food and for medicinal purposes. Their primary use as a parasite remedy is well documented in Native American history. This became so well documented that during the late 1800s to early 1900s, the United States pharmacopoeia listed pumpkin seeds as an official medicine for the treatment of parasites. Native Americans also used the seeds for kidney problems. In the late 1800s, herbal doctors used pumpkin seeds regularly to treat urinary and gastric illness, and as a parasite remedy. Worldwide, pumpkin seeds have been used as both a food and common medicine to cure tapeworms in both India and Mexico.
Medical resources regularly list medicinal uses for pumpkin seeds, such as to promote prostate health in men and as a bone density and arthritis aide. Additionally, medical sources often list medicinal purposes for the seed such as parasite remedy, mild diuretic and laxative, stomach cancer deterrent and as a pulmonary ailment and irritable bladder aide. Current studies in Asia, Africa and Russia continue to research their benefits in the treatment of parasites, depression and kidney stones.
As a nutritious snack, ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds contains under 200 calories. This amount also provides 15 to 50 percent of several important nutrients including protein, zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese. The seeds also contain beneficial fatty acids and amino acids.