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Pumpkin seeds for prostate health

Published:Thursday | June 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Heather Little-White, PhD, Contributor

Pumpkin is eaten in various forms in the diet - by itself as a vegetable, using it for the traditional pumpkin soup, or in pumpkin rice. Pumpkin can also be used to make a refreshing drink or a sweet bread. Despite the various uses, very little effort is made to save the nutritious seeds of the popular pumpkin known as cururbita pepo.

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are chewy in texture, with a mildly sweet nutty taste as a result of roasting. Historically, pumpkin seeds were a specialised food of the American Indians who used them for nutritional and medicinal purposes. Over time, pumpkin seeds have been integrated into a number of cuisines. Mexicans have found very creative ways to integrate pumpkin seeds into their meals.

Low in calories

The nutrition of pumpkin seeds is rich as they are good sources of vitamins A, B1, B2, E and monounsaturated fats. An excellent source of proteins, pumpkin seeds are also rich in magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper and phytosterols. Pumpkin seeds are low in calories with one cup of shelled pumpkin seeds yielding just about 90 calories, four grams of fat, four grams of protein, and 11 grams of carbohydrate.

Prostate health

The phytosterols, essential fatty acids and zinc they contain make them an excellent product for treating prostate conditions, especially enlargement of the prostate gland.One of the phytosterols, beta-sitosterol, blocks the conversion of testosterone into a metabolite which contributes to an enlarged prostate. Known for its potency in zinc, it is recommended that one to four ounces of raw pumpkin seeds be eaten daily to prevent or treat prostate problems.

Pumpkin seeds are sold in health food stores and should be tightly sealed in the packaging to keep them fresh. At home, they will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to six months. If the seeds have a musty aroma, it is an indication that rancidity has set in. Bulk seeds should be stored in air-tight storage containers.

Make your own seeds

If you want to be productive, you can make your own pumpkin seeds.

1. Cut the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Clean the pumpkin flesh off the seeds while still moist.

2. Air-dry the seeds on a flat surface for a few days.

3. To roast, place the seeds on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with oil and seasonings of your choice. Examples: 1tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves or 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg. Add salt to taste.

4. Set oven at 300F and bake seeds for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Constantly shake the pan during baking to prevent seeds from burning.

Meal ideas

There are many ways to use pumpkin seeds in the diet.

Salad dressings: Blend pumpkin with garlic, parsley, cilantro leaves, olive oil and lemon juice.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies: Crush pumpkin seeds and add to your oatmeal cookie recipe.

Sauté: add pumpkin seeds to your sauté of carrots, broccoli and onions and serve over brown rice.

Crunchy salads: Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on to green salads for an extra crunch.

Caution: Pumpkin seeds may cause some allergic reaction like swelling of the mouth and triggering asthma.