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Among my favorite foods are seeds. They are so nutritious, they travel easy and go well with almost anything. They are like the perfect friend: always there for you when you need them. I particularly love to eat pumpkin seeds by themselves and I also use them in many of my recipes. I make scones, cakes, muesli, sauces and spreads with these little gems.

How much do you know about seeds? Do you wish you could incorporate them more frequently in your daily cooking? If so, read on and learn why pumpkin seeds are about to become your best friend too.

Pumpkin seeds (or pepitas de calabaza) are small, flat green seeds that belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family. These delicious seeds have become a staple in healthy eating all around the world. Although all pumpkins are native to the New World (with many indigenous species found across North, South and Central America), they are now widely cultivated and are easy to find in most supermarkets. It would be wise to consider this unassuming seed as one of your greatest allies in achieving optimal heath. Don’t hesitate to use them liberally in your everyday cooking.

Pumpkin kernels are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid and they help lower bad LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, they have an overall beneficial effect in preventing coronary artery disease and stroke. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of good-quality protein, with 100 g of seeds providing 30 g or 54% of recommended daily allowance of protein. Additionally, they are an excellent source of tryptophan and glutamate. Both are precursors of anti stress neurotransmitters that have a calming effect on the brain, reducing anxiety and nervous tension.

Pumpkin seeds are also well known for their high vitamin E content. They contain approximately 237% of RDA for every 100 g consumed. Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. It protects cells from free radical damage and has a particularly positive effect on mucous membranes.

Furthermore, pumpkin kernels are an excellent source of a wide variety of B vitamins. These vitamins work as co-factors for various enzymes aiding cellular metabolism in the human body. Niacin in particular helps to reduce the LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.

It is ideal to purchase organic raw pumpkin seeds and roast them yourself according to your preferences. It is best to choose organic varieties of seeds that help you limit your total exposure to potential contaminants. Having the option of roasting them at home helps maintain the integrity of the oils contained in the seeds by controlling the temperature and length of the roasting process. In a recent study, 20 minutes appeared to be the best amount of time. You can salt them or leave them unsalted depending on how you are going to utilize them.

Pumpkin seeds are very easy to incorporate into your daily diet. They can be added to any vegetable dish, made into a healthy pesto sauce, added to cereal and baked into cookies to name a few options. You can experiment with a wide range of recipes by substituting pumpkin seeds in place of other seeds and nuts. They can elevate the nutritional profile of any dish and, fortunately, their allergenic potential is rather low.