Pumpkin seeds make a great addition to many different meals and snacks. They are highly nutritious and contain phytochemicals that help reduce various diseases. Pumpkin seeds contain fiber and healthy fats which serve to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol while raising HDL or good cholesterol, both of which help prevent heart disease. Men might be interested to know that pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols–plant compounds that are good for the prostate. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of important minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium.
Approximately 2 tablespoons or 1/2 oz of pumpkin seeds contains roughly 85 calories, 4.5 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber. So adding a tablespoon or two of the seeds to different recipes in your meal plan can be a good way of adding some texture and crunch, while at the same time boosting the nutritional value of your meal.
Pumpkin seeds can be purchased raw or roasted as well as salted or unsalted. You can also purchase them hulled or in the shell. I like to buy the hulled pumpkin seeds that are roasted and unsalted. They are convenient and have a wonderful flavor.
Pumpkin seeds can be used in various recipes. I love to add pumpkin seeds to my salads. In particular, I make a salad with baby spinach and spring greens, then add a cooked salmon fillet with a few tablespoons of pumpkin seeds on top. For the dressing, I usually use a spicy Asian vinaigrette, which I make from a little bit of sesame seed oil, soy sauce, honey, lime juice and hot pepper sauce. This salad makes a really tasty and nutritious meal.
Here are some additional ways to add pumpkin seeds to your meal plan:
- Add a few tablespoons to quinoa, cous cous, brown rice or other whole grain dishes–this adds great flavor and texture.
- Add to chicken or tuna salads
- Add on top of oatmeal or other cooked cereals
- Add to muffin and whole grain bread recipes for some crunch and texture
- Add to homemade granola recipes or trail mixes
If you’ve never tasted pumpkin seeds, I would encourage you to give them a try. You’ll get many nutritional benefits from adding them to your meal plan!
Rachel Andrew MPH, RC, CD