Mar 21, 2016

There's More to Pumpkin Seeds than You Ever Thought

via Enza Ferreri

I love pumpkin seeds for their taste, and recently I started snacking on them in the late evening before going to bed.

After a while I noticed that I was falling asleep much more easily than had been the case for some time. A persistent cold and cough I had been suffering from had also disappeared.

The causes can be manifold, of course, but I noticed the strange coincidences and I decided to look up the health benefits of pumpkin seeds, if any existed: I wasn't even aware that they possessed them, for if you like the taste of a particular food you're not inclined to dwell too much on the question of whether it's good for you. Just in case you find out that it isn't.

From my research it turned out that the improvements I had discovered in myself could likely have been the result of consuming this great food, which, according to Nutrition Research Reviews, has indeed many medicinal properties.

The report of a study published in Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences and entitled "The effects of methanolic, chloroform, and ethylacetate extracts of the Cucurbita pepo L. on the delay type hypersensitivity and antibody production" starts in this way:
Pumpkin, as a dietary plant, has been used in traditional medicine around the world. In addition, during the last decade, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, antitumor, intestinal antiparasitic, antibacterial, anti hypercholesterolemia, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and analgic effects of pumpkin has been reported.
The study in itself is performed on mice therefore, as is well known, the application to humans is extremely unsafe. But the essay's introduction indicates the scientific recognition of this plant's health benefits.

Pumpkin seeds contain the vegetable compounds phytosterols, as well as free-radical scavenging antioxidants, also useful.

The 2015 study "Evaluation of the potential of squash pumpkin by-products (seeds and shell) as sources of antioxidant and bioactive compounds" concludes:
This work shows that the residues produced from agro-food industries, like pumpkin shells and seeds are potentially good sources of antioxidant compounds like polyphenols, beneficial for human health. Therefore it is of high interest to develop low cost/effective methods of processing to transform them in added value co-products.
Pumpkin seeds and their oil have benefits for postmenopausal women.

For men's health as well, pumpkin seeds have long been known to be important. Their high zinc content is beneficial for the prostate. Studies have shown that their oil can be used in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, namely enlarged prostate gland.

Research results published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology show that pumpkin contains appreciable amounts of important nutrients, including calcium, iron, zinc, total dietary fibre and β-carotene.

Zinc, of which pumpkin seeds are rich, has many crucial functions, including sleep, insulin regulation, mood, eye and skin health, and particularly it supports the immune system. Zinc deficiency is common in our societies, and that leads to increased incidence of colds and flu, as well as depression and chronic fatigue. The boost to my immune system from pumpkin seeds could explain my better resistance to cold and cough.

And what about my own experience of falling asleep more easily? That link with pumpkin seeds too has found confirmation in scientific literature.

Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan (proteins are complex molecules made of amino acids), that the body converts into the highly precious neurotransmitter serotonin which in turn is converted into melatonin, called the "sleep hormone". Research has found that protein source tryptophan is comparable to pharmaceutical grade tryptophan for the treatment of insomnia.

In addition, pumpkin seeds are cheap, easy to eat, easy to carry, don't require cooking, etc etc.

In case you are thinking that I have invested in pumpkin seed companies' shares or otherwise have vested interests in them, I haven't. But now I may be starting giving it a thought.

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