More than a seed!

By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi

Popular in the Mexican cuisine is a seed which can be roasted and served as snack as it contains proteins, Vit B, C, E and K. It can also be used as medicine as it not only supplies micronutrients such as Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Phosphorus, Potassium and Iron but is a good source of phytosterols and some essential fatty acids. In a world with basically acidic diets, there is a need for a balance. The pumpkin seeds are the only alkaline-forming seeds.

Pumpkin seeds supply the body with various antioxidants: from the different forms of Vitamin E to various phenolic antioxidants (such as caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, syringic, vanillic and protocatechuic acids). These antioxidants account for its many health benefits. The Native Americans use this seed to treat kidney problems and some countries recommend it as ‘brain food’ for treating learning disorders. It is taken to regulate abnormal levels of cholesterol in the body. It is also effective in managing diabetes due to its ability to decrease oxidative stress and improve insulin regulation.

Significant amount of L-tryptophan present in pumpkin seeds makes it relevant in the prevention of the onset of mood disorders and clinical depression. It is also used to treat bladder problems.

Pumpkin seed oil is a remedy for prostate ailments as it keeps hormones from inflicting damage on prostate cells. Phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, sitostanol and avenasterol) present in the seed oil is effective in the treatment of enlarged prostate; it increases urinary flow. It inhibits the enzyme that aids the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Dihydrotestosterone is implicated in the growth and differenciation of the prostate gland; it plays a role in the exacerbation of benign prostate hyperplasia.

To keep the essential fatty acids present in it, pumpkin seed is best eaten raw as excess heat could destroy the fatty acids. However, if preferred roasted, it should be roasted between 15-20 mins.

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