Pumpkins are thought to have originated in Central America, the seeds of related plants being found in Mexico from over 7000 years ago. Pumpkin, a member of the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family (like cantaloupe, cucumber, and squash), was already a staple of the Native American diet long before settlers to the ‘New World’ brought it back to Europe.
The raw hulled seeds, also called pepitas, are flat, green, mildly sweet and nutty, and very nutritious.
They are a great source of magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, and a good source of iron, copper, protein, fibre, Omega 3 fatty acids, and zinc. They are also a rare source of the carotinoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, a carotene recently found to be important for eye health and macular issues.
Pumpkin seeds help promote prostate health, and maintain bone mineral density. They have an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis, and help decrease toxins in the liver. Their phytosterol compounds may reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the body’s immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers. The seeds’ high level of the essential amino acid tryptophan helps increase brain levels of calming serotonin and melatonin.