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Between pumpkin-spiced lattes and everything else pumpkin-inspired this time of year, pumpkin gets so much attention that pumpkin seeds—a bonafide superfood too—are often overlooked and underutilized. Perhaps it’s because many people don’t know how to eat pumpkin seeds, or how to cook them and incorporate them into their meals. Fortunately, there are so many healthy, delicious ways to eat pumpkin seeds that my family loves—and yours will too. But first, let’s look at the health benefits of pumpkin seeds.
Are pumpkin seeds good for you?
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, which in Spanish means “little seeds of squash,” are packed with nutrition and one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.
Packed with protein
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein— an ounce has nearly 7 grams which gives kids energy and staves off hunger.
Protein also helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure you include protein at every meal also helps to keep blood sugar steady and prevent weight gain.
Filled with fiber
If your kids are like most and don’t get enough fiber in their diets from fruits and vegetables, serving pumpkin seeds can help fill some of the void.
Whole pumpkin seeds in their shells have about 5 grams of fiber per serving, while shelled pumpkin seeds have about 3 grams per serving. Although the latter has less fiber, pair pumpkin seeds with a high-fiber fruit like an apple or a pear for example, and you’ve got a healthy snack.
High in magnesium and other minerals
Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s responsible for several different biochemical processes in the body including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium also helps to support bone health, and it can help ease anxiety and may also improve sleep.
Pumpkin seeds are also high in iron, which the red blood cells need to transport oxygen throughout the body. They’re also rich in zinc, which supports skin health, eye health, and may help boost your kids’ immunity and cut down on the amount of times they get sick with colds, infections or stomach bugs.
May make bedtime easier
When you hear the word tryptophan, you probably think turkey and that post-Thanksgiving dinner slump you get when you eat it. Yet tryptophan is also found in pumpkin seeds.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and a happy mood. So although there’s no guarantee, feeding your kids pumpkin seeds may help them sleep through the night.
High in antioxidants
Pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin E, which reduce inflammation and help to prevent many types of diseases.
Lower risk for type-2 diabetes and heart disease
According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 193,000 kids and teens under age 20 are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and experts agree, those numbers are on the rise.
Studies suggest along with a healthy diet and exercise, eating pumpkin seeds may prevent type-2 diabetes. In fact, a February 2014 study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests eating pumpkin seeds can help maintain blood glucose levels.
Another February 2012 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and be protective of the cardiovascular system.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the heart-healthy, brain healthy fats kids need in their diets.
Healthy fats are a vital source of energy for kids and help satisfy their hunger.
They’re also essential for healthy cell membranes, they support the brain and the nervous system, and help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Fat is also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and to help regulate inflammation and metabolism.
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds
While you can eat pumpkin seeds that you get when you carve a pumpkin, making them edible is a process. First, you’ll have to scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin, clean and dry them, and then bake them for 30 minutes. If you want to add cinnamon or other spices, you’ll have to bake them for another 20 minutes.
I don’t know about you but who has time for that?
A quicker and easier way is to buy plain, unsalted pumpkin seeds at the grocery store. You can serve them alone or add them to any type of meal, but either way, there are so healthy and delicious ways to eat them.
Eat pumpkin seeds as a snack
The great thing about pumpkin seeds for kids is that they’re portable, but they don’t have to be refrigerated or kept cool, and they’re allergy-safe for school.
You can toss plain pumpkin seeds with raisins, roast them with cinnamon and sugar (see my favorite pumpkin seeds recipe below!) or your kid’s favorite spices.
Or you can make a pumpkin seed salsa for a healthy and delicious snack.
Add pumpkin seeds to oatmeal
Incorporate pumpkin seeds into oatmeal, overnight oats and baked oatmeal for a quick and easy breakfast.
Top muffins and breads with pumpkin seeds
There’s nothing better than fresh-from-the-oven muffins and breads, especially those made with pumpkin, apples or pears. Mix some pumpkin seeds in the batter or sprinkle them on top and you have a little extra nutrition and texture too.
Use pumpkin seeds in granola
I love making my own homemade granola because I can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar, plus it’s super easy to make a large batch that can last you awhile.
You can use pumpkin seeds in this recipe from Cookie and Kate which I made recently—it was gone in a few days!
Make homemade trail mix with pumpkin seeds
Trail mix can be a healthy snack option, but most types on store shelves are packed with salty nuts and seeds, load of dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.
Instead, make your own trail mix with pumpkin seeds—it’s quick and easy and the best part is that you get to control the ingredients and the portion size.
Make pumpkin seed butter
If you’re looking for an allergy-safe option for school lunches, try making pumpkin seed butter, which is simple to whip up in your blender or Vitamix.
You can also add pumpkin seed butter to smoothies, swirl it into yogurt, drizzle it on top of fruit, or serve it as a fruit dip.
Need a recipe? Try Momables’ Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed Butter.
Add pumpkin seeds to salads, soups, and side dishes
Pumpkin seeds can be tossed into about any type of meal and side dish. Think: vegetable stir-fry, roasted vegetables, rice and grain dishes, tacos, chilis, soups and salads.
Prepare a pesto
Swap pine nuts for pumpkin seeds in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and delicious addition to steak, fish or chicken or spread on your favorite toasted baguette.
Best Pumpkin Seeds To Buy
If you want to roast shelled pumpkin seeds but don’t have the time, there are some great healthy, store-bought options.
Both brands are non-GMO, gluten-free and free of dairy, egg, soy, peanut and tree nuts, which is important if you have kids with food allergies like I do.
Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds pumpkin seeds are sprouted which makes them easy to digest and boosts their nutritional value.
SuperSeedz brand pumpkin seeds are roasted with only natural ingredients like dark chocolate, cinnamon (my kids’ favorite) and cayenne pepper. They also come in 1 ounce and 5 ounce snack size pouches.
My Favorite Pumpkin Seeds Recipe
My daughter loves roasted cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds and although I’ve purchased them in the past, they can get pricey, so recently I made them for her.