Country of origin: Poland
Pumpkin seeds (pepita) are edible kernels of fruit pumpkin. The seeds, indeed, are concentrated sources of many health-benefiting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential amino acids such as tryptophan, and glutamate.
Pumpkin fruit is a squash-like gourd in the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables native to Mexico. Scientific name: Cucurbita pepo. In the Central Americas, hulled and gently roasted pumpkin kernels are popularly known as Pepita.
The pumpkin fruit, in general, is grown as a field vegetable crop. Its seeds, at the same time, have been in use as food, and to extract pumpkin seed oil since centuries. In fact, in some parts of central Europe (Styrian province in Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary), pumpkins are being cultivated solely for their seeds, as a major oilseed crop at a commercial scale.
Generally, the pumpkin fruit is allowed to mature completely in order to obtain good-quality seeds. Each fruit contains up to 500 cream-white husky seeds located at its central hollow cavity; interspersed in between mesh like a fiber network. The seeds are semi-flat, feature typical ovoid shape with a conical tip. Inside, its kernels feature olive-green color, sweet, buttery in texture and nutty in flavor. Pepitas enjoyed as a snack, added to desserts and savory dishes.
Health benefits of Pumpkin seed
- Crunchy, delicious pumpkin seeds are high in calories; about 559 calories per 100 g. Also, they are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and numerous health promoting antioxidants.
- Their high calorific value mainly comes from protein and fats. Nonetheless, the kernels are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid(18:1) that helps lower bad LDL-cholesterol and increases good HDL-cholesterol in the blood. Research studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet which is liberal in monounsaturated fatty acids contribute to preventing coronary artery disease and stroke risk by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- Pumpkin seeds carry good-quality protein. 100 g seeds provide 30 g or 54% of recommended daily allowance of protein. Also, the seeds are an excellent source of amino acid tryptophan and glutamate. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and niacin. Serotonin is a beneficial neurochemical often labeled as nature's sleeping pill. Further, tryptophan is the precursor of B-complex vitamin, niacin (60 mg of tryptophan = 1 mg niacin).
- Glutamate is essential for the synthesis of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA, an anti-stress neurochemical in the brain, helps reducing anxiety, nervous irritability, and other neurotic conditions.
- Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of antioxidant vitamin-E; contain about 35.10 mg of tocopherol-gamma per 100 g (about 237% of RDA). Vitamin-E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. It prevents tissue cells from the free radical mediated oxidant injury. Thus, it helps maintain the integrity of mucosa and skin by protecting from harmful free-oxygen radicals.
- Pumpkin kernels are also an excellent source of the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins work as cofactors for various enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism in the human body. Besides, niacin helps in the reduction of LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. Along with glutamate, it enhances GABA activity inside the brain, which in turn reduces anxiety and nervous irritability.
- Furthermore, its seeds contain good amounts of essential minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Just as in pine nuts, pumpkin seeds too are very rich sources of manganese (provide 4543 mg per 100 g, about 198% of daily-recommended intake). Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Therefore, consumption of pumpkin kernels help develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Medicinal values of pumpkin seeds.
- Research studies suggest that some chemical compounds in the pumpkin seeds possess DHEA (Di-hydro-epi-androstenedione) hormone-blocking actions at the receptor levels. Exposure to high DHEA levels may lead to gonadal tumors. Thus, these seeds may cut the risk of prostate and ovarian cancers in the humans.
- In addition, experimental studies suggest that certain phytochemical compounds in pumpkin seed oil may have a role in the prevention of diabetic nephropathy (diabetic kidney disease).
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