Using Pumpkin Seeds as the New Almonds

Is carving pumpkins part of your family’s fall traditions? Think twice before you toss out the seeds this year.

Pumpkin seeds are taking over the snack aisle and for good reason. They’re a low-calorie, nutritious treat thanks to their being an excellent source of zinc, protein, and heart-healthy omega-3 fats, as well as other vitamins and minerals (including vitamins A, B, E and K, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese, amongst others).

And the hefty dose of filling fiber (3 grams per ¼ cup) you get when munching on this crunchy seed helps secure its spot at the top of the class, while their health benefits make them the perfect snack to keep around all yearlong.

Mind and Body

Nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost heart health by reducing inflammation and improving other markers for heart disease, including blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats (like omega-3s) also play an important role in brain health and cognitive function. In fact, kids who get enough omega-3s daily have improved reading skills compared to those who don’t.

Luckily, most kids like pumpkin seeds, especially when they get to help dig them out of their own pumpkin.

Skin Health

Pumpkin seeds are one of the best food sources of zinc. Zinc plays a vital role in immunity, wound-healing, and skin health by helping to maintain collagen and promote skin renewal.Whole pumpkin seeds (shell on) are great for snacking, but the shelled kernels (also called pepitas) are more versatile.

You can sprinkle pepitas on yogurt, cottage cheese, cereal, or oatmeal, or make your own low-fat granola with pumpkin seeds in the mix.

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Who remembers reaching into a pumpkin and pulling out the gooey insides? My favorite part is rinsing them off and roasting them for a deliciously crispy, quick and easy snack!

Here’s my foolproof Roasted Pumpkin Seeds recipe:

What you’ll need:

  • Pumpkin
  • Carving knife
  • Large spoon
  • Colander
  • Baking sheet

Step 1: Go to the pumpkin farm or stand and pick out your favorite pumpkin.

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 300˚. Carve off the top of your pumpkin. If using a smaller cooking pumpkin, cut the pumpkin into sections for better access to the seeds.

Step 3: Scoop out the innards and seeds of the pumpkin and transfer to the colander.

Step 4: Separate the seeds from the innards, discarding the innards into a small bowl and leaving the seeds in the colander. Rinse the seeds clean under cold running water. After rinsing them, you’ll want to pat them dry with a paper towel or cloth.

Step 5: Lightly spray your baking sheet with nonstick oil spray. Spread out your pumpkin seeds in one even layer, and then sprinkle with kosher salt. Or top with your favorite seasonings—get creative using some of my ideas below!

Step 6: Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden; cool all the way before eating.

Pumpkin seeds that are ready to eat will be very crispy and easy to bite into.Want to jazz up your pumpkin gems before baking them in the oven?

Try some of my favorite flavor blends (for every 2 to 3 cups seeds):

Garlic and Herb – toss with ⅓ cup Parmesan, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon your favorite herb seasoning like rosemary or oregano

Salt and Vinegar – 1 teaspoon salt and 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar

Cinnamon Sugar – 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Tex Mex Taco – toss with taco seasoning mix

Spicy – ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon olive oil

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

Sources:

Mats Johnson, et al. Omega 3/6 fatty acids for reading in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 9-year-old mainstream schoolchildren in Sweden. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2016.

Continue Reading