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Pumpkin seeds just scooped from the fruit
Pumpkin seeds after shelling, roasting, and salting

A pepita (from Mexican Spanish: pepita de calabaza, "little seed of squash") or pumpkin seed is an edible seed of a pumpkin or other cultivar of squash (genus Cucurbita), typically rather flat and asymmetrically oval, and light green in color inside a white hull. The word can refer either to the hulled kernel or unhulled whole seed, and most commonly refers to the roasted end product. The pressed oil of the roasted seeds of a specific pumpkin variety is also used in Central and Eastern European cuisine (see Pumpkin seed oil).[citation needed]

Pepitas are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and are also roasted and served as a snack.[1] Marinated and roasted, they are an autumn seasonal favorite in the rural United States, as well as a commercially produced and distributed packaged snack, like sunflower seeds, available year-round. Pepitas are known by their Spanish name (usually shortened), and typically salted and sometimes spiced after roasting (and today also available as a packaged product), in Mexico and other Latin American countries, in the American Southwest, and in speciality and Mexican food stores. In the Americas, they have been eaten since at least the time of the Aztecs[citation needed] and probably much earlier, since squash was one of the three earliest plant domesticates in the Western Hemisphere, along with maize (corn) and common beans (collectively the Native American agricultural "Three Sisters", originating in Mexico).

They are often simply called pumpkin seeds in English. As an ingredient in mole dishes, they are known in Spanish as pipian. Lightly roasted, salted, unhulled pumpkin seeds are popular in Greece with the descriptive Italian name, passatempo ("pastime").

Contents

Nutrition

The seeds are also good sources of protein, and the essential minerals iron (25 grams (about a US quarter-cup) can provide over 20 per cent of the recommended daily iron intake) as well as zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper,[2] and potassium. The seeds also provide essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (including at least one ω-3 unsaturated fatty acid[2] and at least one ω-6 unsaturated fatty acid).[citation needed]

Lightly roasted seeds provide better nutrition than dark ones, as excessive heat destroys some of their nutritive value.[3]

in 2007, Stevenson & al. of the USDA's New Crops Products Research Unit searched the primary literature for information about the lipid content of pepitas, and then grew and analyzed pepitas from seven cultivars of C. maxima.[4] They found the following ranges of fatty acid content in C. maxima pepitas:

n:unsat Fatty acid name Percentage range
(14:0) Myristic acid 0.003-0.056
(16:0) Palmitic acid 1.6-8.0
(16:1) Palmitoleic acid 0.02-0.10
(18:0) Stearic acid 0.81-3.21
(18:1) Oleic acid 3.4-19.4
(18:2) Linoleic acid 5.1-20.4
(18:3) Linolenic acid 0.06-0.22
(20:0) Arachidic acid 0.06-0.21
(20:1) Gadoleic acid 0-0.035
(22:0) Behenic acid 0.02-0.12

The reported concentration of myristate and palmitate (the cholestrogenic fatty acids) for the pepitas ranged from 1.6% to 4.9%. The total unsaturated fatty acid concentration ranged from 9% to 21% of the pepita. The total fat content ranged from 11% to 52% of the pepita. Based on the quantity of alpha-tocopherol extracted in the oil, the vitamin E content of the twelve C. maxima cultivar seeds ranged from 4 to 19 mg/g of pepita.

Nutraceutical uses

The seeds (and seed oil, see below) of pumpkins, such as Cucurbita pepo varieties have been subject to a great deal of research, especially into the treatment of prostate ailments.[5]

Whole seeds or kernels

According to the USDA,[6] one gram of pepita contains 4.31 mg and one gram of pepita protein contains 15.3 mg of L-tryptophan, whereas one cup of milk contains 183 mg. This high tryptophan content makes pepita of interest to researchers studying the treatment of anxiety disorders.[7] Some eat the seeds as preventative measure against onset of anxiety attacks, clinical depression and other mood disorders.[citation needed]

Some studies have also found pumpkin seeds to prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)[citation needed] and to regulate cholesterol levels in the body.[citation needed]

According to Nicole Egenberger, ND, clinic director for Remed Naturopaths, certain unnamed studies suggest that pepita ingestion may lower the risk of certain types of kidney stones.[8] In making this claim, Egenberger used the phrase "omega fatty acids".

The oil

The oil of pumpkin seeds, a culinary speciality in (and important export commodity of) Central European cuisine as a salad oil and a cooking oil, is also used to treat irritable bowel syndrome and various other ailments, both in folk medicine[citation needed] and in modern medical practice[citation needed] and research.[citation needed]

Long an Eastern European folk remedy for the prostate problems of men[citation needed], the oil has in fact been shown to improve symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate due to benign prostatic hyperplasia.[citation needed] Components in pumpkin seed oil appear to interrupt the triggering of prostate cell multiplication by testosterone and DHT.[citation needed] It is questionable whether eating the seeds whole in snack quantities, rather than taking therapeutic doses of the concentrated oil, would provide any prostate benefit.[2][5]

In German folk medicine, the oil is also used to quell parasitic infestations such as tapeworms.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ Pepita Preparation
  2. ^ a b c World's Healthiest Foods
  3. ^ The Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
  4. ^ Stevenson, D. G., Eller, F. J., Wang, L., Jane, J., Wang, T., & Inglett, G. E. "Oil and Tocopherol content and Composition of Pumpkin Seed Oil in 12 Cultivars" J. Agric. Food Chem. 2007(55) 4005-4013. The data are found in Tables 1-3 on pp. 4006-4010.
  5. ^ a b See Pumpkin seed oil#References for extensive medical journal citations.
  6. ^ http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/
  7. ^ "New Study Demonstrates Treatment of Anxiety Disorders using Pumpkin Seed"
  8. ^ Nicole Egenberger, ND, "Stock Up for the New Year", Alternative Medicine, January 2008 (103) p. 16. http://www.naturalsolutionsmag.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/articleSearch.article/articleID/14699/keyword/kidney%20stones/StockUpfortheNew







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