'Tis the season to dissect a pumpkin, carve out its guts, display the carcass on your doorstep, and roast the innards to eat as a snack! After all, Halloween is the most goth holiday. While some people enjoy the actual process of carving pumpkins, many of us look forward to snacking on those delicious seeds.
If you've never eaten a pumpkin seed, they're little fibrous, teardrop-shaped seeds hidden inside a hard exterior shell found in the inside of a pumpkin. In addition to the seeds you'll find naturally in pumpkins, you can also buy shell-less pumpkin seeds, called pepitas, at pretty much any grocery store. People love snacking on the seeds plain, or sprinkling them on smoothie bowls and yogurt. And although pumpkin seeds are small, they are surprisingly nutrient-dense, and can be delicious.
From a nutrient perspective, pumpkin seeds are full of fiber, plant-based protein, and healthy fats, says Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian in Lubbock, TX. One cup of pumpkin seeds (which is kind of a lot) contains about 11.9 grams of protein, and 11.8 grams of fiber. Protein and fiber are good macronutrients to pay attention to when you're choosing a snack, because they will keep you full and energized.
Fat is another factor that contributes to fullness and satiety, and pumpkin seeds happen to be rich in unsaturated fats, McMordie says. Compared to saturated fats, which can raise cholesterol levels, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, have been shown to benefit heart health, she says. As it turns out, pumpkin seeds contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Some other foods that contain this "good" kind of fat besides seeds include fish, olive oil, avocados, and walnuts.
Pumpkin seeds are also unique because of the micronutrients they contain, including magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and folate, McMordie says. "Magnesium is a mineral that's involved in over 600 reactions in the body, yet many Americans are short on it," she says. Magnesium can help to control blood pressure and blood sugar, plus is important for heart and bone health, she says. A one-cup serving of pumpkin seeds contains 168 mg of magnesium, while the daily recommendation for women under 30 is 310 mg.
So, if you find yourself carving pumpkins this Halloween season, do yourself a favor and make sure that the pumpkin seeds are saved. Because once the candy corn and other treats have been devoured, you're going to want to snack on something salty — and pumpkin seeds will do the trick.