Pumpkin seeds are a nutritionally dense superfood that quickly fills you up and satisfies hunger cravings. Ahead are details on the fat content and calories in pumpkin seeds and why, despite being relatively high in both, they make such a healthy snack food.
Pumpkin Seeds Fat Content
The dominant four fatty acids in pumpkin seeds are linoleic acid (omega-6), oleic acid (omega-9) and palmitic and stearic acid (saturated). Pumpkin seeds also have some alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid.
Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fat that is involved in proper brain function, growth and development, regulating metabolism, maintaining healthy skin and hair and has a variety of other important effects on our overall health.
Most people eating a Western diet however, do get enough omega-6 fatty acids in their daily meals. Actually, it’s quite possible they get too much compared to the important omega-3s.
Don’t see this as a reason to stop eating pumpkin seeds though. With their many health benefits, it would be far better to look at all of the other unhealthy sources of omega-6 fats most of us consume.
Raw pumpkin seeds are a great source of healthy fatty acids. Ideally, cut down on poor sources of potentially inflammatory polyunsaturated fats, particularly in their hydrogenated form.
The worst culprits here are margarine and shortenings, and processed vegetable oils like corn, safflower, cottonseed and soybean oils, that are being added in increasing quantities to so many supermarket foods. Avocado oil with its high smoking point and virgin coconut oil, full of beneficial medium chain fatty acids, are far healthier cooking oils.
Extra virgin olive oil is a good culinary oil, but shouldn’t really be cooked with due to it’s low smoking point. Any cooking oil that has a low smoking point, like extra virgin olive oil, will potentially see unhealthy changes in the structure of the fatty acids when heated at the levels used in frying. If you do use it for light cooking, keep the temperature as low as possible.
Whatever oils you use, it’s worth keeping in mind the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 you’re consuming. Omega-3 fats can be hard to get in the standard Western diet, even when eating healthily, due to the predominance of omega-6.
Flaxseed oil can help for vegetarians, but by far the best source of omega-3 fatty acids is a high quality fish oil. I personally take it just about everyday to, amongst its many other health benefits, help keep my omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in balance.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
The oleic acid in pumpkin seeds is a monounsaturated fat, also called an omega-9 fatty acid. Oleic acid it considered one of the healthier fats to have in our diet. It is believed to help lower our blood levels of LDL cholesterol (that’s low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – the bad type) and raise our level of HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol – the good one). In this way, increasing your intake of omega-9 fatty acids compared to polyunsaturated fats may be of benefit in preventing and even treating heart disease.
There’s much more on how important monounsaturated fats are for good health in the page on the benefits of avocado oil.
What of the saturated palmitic and stearic acids in pumpkin seeds, with one ounce containing around 2.5 grams of saturated fat? For a long time we’ve been told to minimize saturated fats if we want to stay healthy and avoid heart disease and other health problems. But recent research is challenging that type of thinking.
A 2010 meta-analysis of 21 different studies on saturated fat found ‘no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease)’.
I’m not suggesting dramatically increasing saturated fat intake, but we do need it in our diet and shouldn’t be afraid of saturated fat from healthy sources like pumpkin seeds. In fact, saturated fats are vital for proper cellular function, hormone creation, assimilation of many important nutrients and many other processes that keep us alive and healthy.
Diets that are especially low in saturated fat are usually very unhealthy and, rather than helping us lose weight, usually lead to weight gain. One of the reasons for this is because saturated fat usually increases satiety – that feeling of satisfied fullness after eating. Low fat, high carb foods, on the other hand, tend to just make us more and more hungry.
Raw Pumpkin Seeds as a Healthy Snack
Choosing pumpkin seeds as a snack, rather than high carbohydrate junk like potato crisps, can actually help most people lose weight, despite the fat content. High carbohydrate foods are far more likely to cause weight gain due to the way they increase fat storing insulin production and provoke more hunger.
Pumpkin seeds, with their healthy fats, will fill you up for longer in much smaller amounts and provide many other health benefits. Try trading in that bag of fat storing crisps for a bag of healthy raw pumpkin seeds and see if before long you don’t feel and look a lot better.
Pumpkin Seeds Calories
1 ounce (that’s 28.3 grams and around 140 seeds to get really specific) of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 150 calories. The majority of those calories coming from the polyunsaturated (5.9 grams), monounsaturated (4 grams) and saturated fats (2.5 grams).
One full cup (that’s 64 grams, which you’d probably have trouble eating as a snack unless you were really hungry), is approximately 285 calories.
While pumpkin seeds could hardly be considered a low-calorie food, they are very filling, full of health nutrients and make an ideal replacement for junk food snacks. Don’t be afraid of the calories in pumpkin seeds. You’ll be unlikely to eat them in large amounts and their calories are more than worth it for how good they are for you.
If you’d like to try some pumpkin seeds the page on where to get raw pumpkin seeds has many good quality options on discount.
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