Go Healthy With Pumpkin Seeds

10-24-08 pumpkin patch Resized

Before tossing out pumpkin seeds, consider enjoying them as a snack.

New York City registered dietitians agree that pumpkin seeds have many health benefits.

"They're a great source of vegetarian protein. One ounce has more protein than a 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter,” said Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian and nutritionist.

Pumpkin seeds are “packed with fiber, which slows digestion so they help you stay slim,” said Ansel. You eat less because you feel full, she says. And to get more fiber, eat pumpkin seeds with their shells on, recommended Ansel.

The seeds are loaded with minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc, which help fight against infection by strengthening the immune system.

They’re a good source of iron, which is needed for energy.

"Iron helps form hemoglobin -- a compound that delivers oxygen throughout our bodies and to our brains," said Ansel. 

A form of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant, is in pumpkin seeds, too, said Ansel.

“Because they're so healthy, they're a great way to indulge a craving for something crunchy. Naturally they have almost no sodium, so eat them naked,” said Ansel.

Pumpkin seeds also have anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids -- about 14 grams per ounce.

"It's nearly all the heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated variety [of fat], so they're a super heart-healthy snack,” said Ansel.

But that doesn't mean pumpkin seeds are calorie-free. One registered dietitian and nutritionist warned that two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds contain about 100 calories.

“They should be used sparingly. Think of them as a condiment,” said dietitian and nutritionist Mary Jane Detroyer.

“Sprinkle a tablespoon or two on a salad, in soups, muffins, pancakes and breads,” she suggested.

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