Everyone wants to know how to get more protein in a plant-based diet. It’s no wonder since protein is a hot topic in all health circles out there. Whether you’re concerned with energy, building strength, brain focus, bone maintenance or just general health, protein is definitely an important nutrient you need in your diet. Most people are now aware that animal sources of protein aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Animal foods promote inflammation, while plant-based options don’t. However, not all of us are keen on quinoa or crazy about beans. That’s where seeds come into play.
Seeds are some of the most overlooked nutrient sources out there in the plant-based kingdom, though many are rising in their popularity now more than ever. Seeds such as hemp, chia, and flax have been well-known for years for their high omega 3 content and their protein content (plus, talk about that fiber!) but another seed out there comes with the same benefits and other important nutrients too.
Pumpkin seeds are truly a gift from nature. They don’t just taste great (actually fantastic!), but can also serve as a healthy protein option too. Keep in mind that raw, organic darkly colored heirloom pumpkin seeds or raw, organic bright green pumpkin seeds will offer more nutrients than other varieties that are salted, roasted or sprayed with pesticides, so be sure you choose the best source. (These versions also tastes the best too!)
Here’s what these seeds have to offer:
Pumpkin seeds are rich in iron and are one of the best sources in such a small amount found throughout the plant-based diet. Though beans and some legumes are much higher (along with grains), pumpkin seeds are pretty impressive, offering 16 percent of your daily needs in just 1/4 a cup. Raw, organic pumpkin seed protein powder is even available now, which would be an even denser way to get your fill of iron from this healthy seed, providing 40 percent, almost identical to hemp protein powder.
Alkalizing and Anti-Inflammatory
Raw, green pumpkin seeds are green because they have a high amount of natural chlorophyll in them. Chlorophyll is found in all green foods, which alkalizes and naturally cleanses the body (no need for a detox here!). Pumpkin seeds offer the most of any seed or nut since they are denser in the green hue, though hemp and even purely raw sunflower seeds are other good sources. Chlorophyll alkalizes the blood, which prevents inflammation that can occur from a high acid diet or other lifestyle factors.
Pumpkin seeds also have more fiber than many nuts, boosting 5 grams per 1/4 cup. This can help regulate your blood sugar, enhance regularity, and the fiber in pumpkin seeds is easier to digest than from some other sources like beans or hard-to-digest grains and nuts. Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to improving insulin regulation, which can help those with blood sugar issues or even diabetes.
If you have a nut allergy, you’ll especially want to jump on board the pumpkin seed train! Pumpkin seeds and other seeds should be enjoyed since they provide beneficial fatty acids that one might miss out on when they can’t enjoy the healthy fat from nuts. Even if you don’t have an allergy to nuts, these seeds will provide other nutrients that you won’t get in such a small serving from other foods. Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of soy-free protein for those that have a soy allergy or just want to avoid it.
Of course, we can’t forget protein! Pumpkin seeds have a good amount of protein in a small serving, containing 5 grams in just one ounce. They’re a rich source of amino acids and contain an especially high amount of tryptophan, the amino acid that enhances serotonin production in the body. They’re true mood-boosters and make a great addition to any meal to up the protein content. Think smoothies, oatmeal, salads, soups, stir-fries, and more!
These seeds are also a fantastic source of zinc, which helps carbohydrate metabolism in the body, hormone production, and even improves immune health and even your skin, hair, and nails. Pumpkin seeds contain 23 percent of your daily zinc needs in just 1/4 cup serving. Cacao, nuts, seeds, and some grains are also good sources.
Pumpkin seeds might be high in fat, but it’s the fat your body loves! They’re an especially good source of omega 3 fatty acids and a rich source of mono-unsaturated fats that protect your heart, prevent inflammation, and help manage your weight. Like all healthy fats, they’re not meant to be consumed in massive amounts, but eaten in single serving portions at each of your meals or as a healthy snack. Healthy fats ensure good heart health, help balance your blood sugar, and are an important factor in your mood, digestion, and overall health. Always choose whole food based sources of healthy fats which also have fiber and whole food sources of vitamins and minerals.
Pumpkin seeds have even been shown to eliminate seriously dangerous microbes from the body, including parasites! These seeds are no joke when it comes to keeping you healthy all the way around. Just 1/4 cup a day has been shown to be beneficial at improving immune health and also eliminating (not just preventing) various unhealthy microbes from harming the body. Keep in mind an overall healthy diet, rich in whole, plant-based foods is a key primer for keeping unhealthy microbes away, though some specific foods like pumpkin seeds, garlic and coconut have been linked to especially impressive treatment benefits as well. Even for yeast infections like candida, pumpkin seeds have been shown to prevent yeast overgrowth, inflammation, and can improve skin conditions in those with skin-based yeast infections.
Magnesium is such an important mineral for your health. It’s commonly called the ‘forgotten mineral’ because many people suffer health issues, all because of magnesium deficiency (headaches, low blood sugar, constipation, insomnia, lack of energy, and a foul mood, just to name a handful). Some people believe this is because the important mineral that’s found in the soil has been destroyed by factoring farming, soil depletion and other agricultural factors, while some people simply don’t eat enough naturally magnesium-rich foods (plant-based foods). Animal foods, sugar, refined grains and processed foods don’t contain the true magnesium that whole plant-based foods do. Pumpkin seeds are some of the richest source of magnesium in such a small serving, while greens, grains, beans, legumes, cashews, almonds, and cacao are other especially dense sources.
How to Use Pumpkin Seeds:
As you can see, protein is just one of the many nutrients found in pumpkin seeds. Be sure to enjoy them in oatmeal, smoothies, chia pudding, raw energy bites, granola bars, muffins, salads, soups, and whole grain dishes, which are all easy ways to add the seeds to your diet. Toss them into one of your meals each day, or enjoy them in a healthy trail mix!
You might also like to try some of these deliciously healthy recipes with pumpkin seeds that we love:
- The Glow Bowl (pictured above)
- Zucchini Pasta With Pumpkin Seeds and Garlic
- Raw Pumpkin Seed Pesto
- Ayurvedic Oatmeal
- Pumpkin Protein Smoothie
- Veggie Quinoa Bowl
- JumBowl Salad
If you eat pumpkin seeds, what’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
Lead Image Source: Maple Spice Oatmeal Bowl of Goodness