Pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas, are flat, dark-green seeds. Some are encased in a yellow-white husk, although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack, whether you enjoy them raw or roasted.
They're a natural anti-inflammatory snack and contain phytosterols, which help lower LDL cholesterol. Pumpkins are also rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, which combat free radicals in the lens of the eyes. And guys, pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which is helpful and nutritious for your prostate.
Pumpkins are rich in beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps the body repair free radical damage to cells. The seeds contain vitamin K, minerals including calcium, manganese, iron and phosphorus.
They're a perfect snack when you're stressed because pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and magnesium (two minerals that become depleted when stressed). Just half a cup of pumpkin seeds provide 92 percent of your daily value of magnesium!
Pumpkin seeds are a healthy source of fiber and fat. There's 11.9 grams of protein in one cup. Pumpkin seeds contain fatty acids that may help get rid of parasites, cleanse blood vessels, and stimulate kidney activity.
They're an excellent source of amino acids arginine, leucine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid which, together with other amino acids, are used to make muscle protein myosin (an essential component for energy and strong muscular contractions).
Enjoy pumpkin seeds by themselves, in salads, homemade granola or roasted with coconut oil, unprocessed sea salt and your favorite spices.
Here's my quick and easy granola recipe. Tasty, full of fiber and healthy! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the following ingredients and spread onto a cookie sheet:
• 2 cups old-fashioned, whole, organic, gluten-free oats
• 1 heaping cup of organic nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews) and 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
• 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
• 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
Drizzle over mixture:
• 6 tablespoons of organic maple syrup; 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract; 6 tablespoons of coconut oil
Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Make sure to stir the granola every five minutes while cooking. When granola is golden, remove from oven.
Optional: Stir in 1 cup of your favorite sulfite-free dried fruit, such as chopped papaya or cherries.
Serve with organic, unsweetened coconut milk or by itself. This is yummy and makes the house smell good, too!
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at www.PaulaOwens.com.