I figured since I had a new treat I liked I’d better do a little research and make sure that what I thought was something healthy was actually what it professed to be.
First of all, pepitas is a fancy word for pumpkin seeds. These little seeds have become a popular alternative to salty snack foods. When sea salt, herbs or spices are added, they turn into a nutritious snack that would please the biggest junk food addict.
For a little background, pepitas can be a hulled kernel or an unhulled whole seed that is raw or roasted. They have liberal usage in Mexican cuisine in such dishes as mole, and are ground for use in green sauces. In the Southwest and Latin America, pepitas have been eaten since the time of the Aztecs or earlier for their special flavor and health benefits.
Thank goodness, these tasty little seeds really ARE good for you. They offer tons of nutrients including amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and a wealth of minerals such as calcium, potassium, niacin, and phosphorous. They are high in most of the B vitamins, and vitamins C, D, E, and K. They are rich in beta carotene that can be converted into vitamin A as needed by the body, and also rich in the eye protective carotenoid lutein.
One handful, about the amount I throw on a salad, has 9 grams of protein, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, copper and zinc. (More about zinc to come)
Since they are a nut, we know they have oil in them. They are full of monounsaturated oil, omega-3 fats, and carotenoids. These fats help our hair remain glossy, our skin clear and up our energy levels. Another reason to eat pepitas is for the zinc which helps with bone mineral density. As osteoporosis affects men as well as women, we could all use anything that helps with that fight. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well known health proponent, touts pumpkin seeds as a good source of zinc which helps maintain optimum immune function and wound healing. It is also a component of key enzymes that help preserve vision and protect against age-related vision loss, including macular degeneration. This is especially interesting to me as my mother suffers a progressive from of macular degeneration. This condition may be genetic so I am taking precautions to protect my own vision. Zinc plays a role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and may be beneficial as a supplement for people with severe diarrhea, sickle cell anemia, gastric ulcers, and acne. In addition, zinc is vital for normal fetal development and the maturation of sperm. Wow, I never realized the importance of this little mineral.
They are also known as one of the anti-inflammatory foods. Adding them to the diet has been shown to work as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in reducing symptoms of inflammation. And they did this without any unwanted side effects or threat to the liver.
That’s a lot going on in such a little seed. Whether you call them pepitas or pumpkin seeds, they are a great addition to your diet. You can munch on them rather than a salty snack, add them to yogart or in place of any other nut, top a salad with them or be creative, and you have a great punch to your health.
Learn more here.
What is your favorite salad topping? Have you tried pumpkin seeds/pepitas? How do you like to eat them?