When preparing pumpkin, don’t overlook the seeds. Roasted, they make a tasty treat—and they also contain nutrients that aren’t found in the flesh. “I like to recommend the seeds because they’re one of the richest sources of zinc in the plant kingdom,” says nutritionist Melissa Diane Smith. “This is great for vegetarians, because meat and poultry are the best dietary sources of zinc. Zinc is very important for protecting immune function and lessening the severity of colds.”
The seeds are also an excellent source of essential fatty acids, both omega-3 and omega-6. Along with flaxseed oil and hemp seed oil, pumpkin seed oil is one of the top three nutritional oils. The good fats contained in pumpkin seed oil have been linked to healthier skin, increased energy, even improved mental function.
Pumpkin seed oil can be purchased at natural products stores, but the whole seeds are also nutritious, whether eaten raw or roasted. “Raw seeds are the most nutritious,” Smith says, “but if pumpkin seeds are roasted at lower temperature—300°F or less—this protects those good fats more than a higher temperature would.”