So-called ‘superfoods’ are expensive, due to their fashionable explosion onto the health food scene. But there’s lots of relatively inexpensive ingredients that can be deemed ‘superfoods’ simply by virtue of their health benefits.
The humble pumpkin seed (also known as pepita) is one of these. They turn up in muesli and salads, but having learned how packed with nutrients they are, I’m starting to think they should be tossed into every dish.
Eating only a small amount of them can provide a substantial quantity of healthy fats, magnesium and zinc. At 151 calories per tablespoon (28gms), this includes 7g of protein and 13 grams of fat – of which half is the anti-aging Omega 6 chain. They contain antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and protect your cells from harmful free radicals. Diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been linked to lower levels of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers.
But wait, there’s more… There is also research to suggest that taking pumpkin seeds can help treat symptoms of an overactive bladder.
It is estimated that up to 80% of people are magnesium deficient. A handful of pumpkin seeds would go a long way to correcting this. Magnesium is necessary for more than 600 chemical reactions in the body. Adequate magnesium stores are important for:
- Controlling blood pressure
- Reducing heart disease risk
- Forming and maintaining healthy bones
- Regulating blood sugar levels
Last but not least, they contain zinc, which studies show helps the quality and quantity of sperm.
If you’ve noticed that the seeds in the pumpkin you serve with roast dinners are white, whereas the seeds in the shops are green, it’s because the tough outer white coating is peeled off. The inner green kernel has all the goodness and is much tastier. Toasted in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes to make them crunchy and sweet, they make an excellent snack or lunchbox filler.
I like to sprinkle them on top of savoury and sweet muffins, for a crunchy texture.
A tablespoon of pumpkin seeds contains:
- Fibre: 1.7 grams
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Fat: 13 grams (6 of which are Omega-6s)
- Vitamin K: 18% of the RDI
- Phosphorous: 33% of the RDI
- Manganese: 42% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 37% of the RDI
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Zinc: 14% of the RDI
- Copper: 19% of the RDI
They also contain lots of antioxidants and a decent amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, potassium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and folate.
Coriander Pumpkin Seed Pesto
½ cup pumpkin seeds 1 cup spinach leaves
1 cup coriander leaves (1 pot of living herbs is about a cup)
75mls extra virgin olive oil 50ml lime juice
½ tsp crushed or fresh, deseeded chilli
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 180◦C. Place seeds on a tray with sides, and toast pumpkin seeds until just turning golden – about 8-10 minutes. Put the toasted pumpkin seeds and all other ingredients in a food processor, and pulse till they are a coarse puree. (Or till smooth, if you prefer it.)
This pesto is great stirred through pasta, or served with a Mexican platter.
Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables with Pumpkin Seeds
2 courgettes 2 eggplants
800 g pumpkin 2 cups kale leaves, chopped
Grated zest of 2 lemons 1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tsp chilli flakes
75mls pomegranate molasses 125ml olive oil
60g feta, diced ½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup walnuts Coriander leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 180◦C. Put pumpkin seeds and walnuts on a small tray and bake for 8-10 minutes. Set aside. Dice eggplants, courgettes and pumpkin and heap on a large baking tray with sides.
Grate the lemon skin on the small holes on your grater. In a small jug, combine lemon zest, molasses, garlic and chilli flakes. Mix well and drizzle over the vegetables, making sure they are all coated. Spread them out to be a single layer and sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 35 minutes, turn them over and roast a further 10 minutes, or until soft and slightly caramelised.
Once cooked, mix gently with the kale leaves, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Arrange on a serving platter and add the feta cubes, garnish with the coriander leaves.
Note: Pomegranate molasses is available in most supermarkets, but if you can’t find it, try maple syrup and swap the chilli flakes for smoked paprika.
Carol Garden is a writer who likes to explore healthy, interesting food ideas. She has worked as a caterer, vegan chef, journalist and public relations consultant.
To contact Carol email: firstname.lastname@example.org