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We think pumpkin seeds are one of Nature’s perfect foods.  Anytime you combine delicious with nutritious, you know you have a winner; but pumpkin seeds go beyond the “health” factor of most foods.  Pumpkin seeds are chock full of zinc (and phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper) and vitamin E.  While there are lots of foods that give you more vitamin E than pumpkin seeds, few foods give you the diversity of vitamin E that pumpkin seeds offer.  Pumpkin seeds are such powerhouses of zinc and vitamin E that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends them as a way to obtain these two nutrients.

In case you don’t know, zinc is an important mineral to the human body.  Zinc is found in cells all over the body and it helps strengthen the immune system so you can fight off bacteria and viruses; it also helps the body to heal its wounds.  Everyone needs zinc to make proteins and DNA; pregnant women and children need zinc for proper growth, and believe it or not, zinc is an important factor in taste and smell. That was a new one to us.  Most multi-vitamin supplements contain zinc, as do homeopathic cold remedies and some lozenges.  Zinc, because it is so important to the immune system, is thought to lessen the duration of the common cold, and we know lots of people who swear by it.  One thing to beware of: nasal sprays and gels containing zinc.  They’ve been associated with a loss of smell, which in some cases has been permanent.  Besides healing our boo-boos and fighting off infections, pumpkin seeds keep on giving.

Vitamin E, as we said, is in lots of foods but few other foods have the variety of vitamin E that pumpkin seeds hold.  The following forms of vitamin E are found in pumpkin seeds: alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, and gamma-tocomonoenol.  If you’re looking at this list and thinking, “This means nothing to me,” then you’re not alone.   The last two types listed here have only recently been found in pumpkin seeds and are the topic of much scientific research into vitamin E because their bio-availability may be more than some other types of E.  Variety is said to be the spice of life, but in the case of vitamin E it’s also vital.

If you want to get the most out of your roasted pumpkin seeds, then don’t roast them for more than fifteen to twenty minutes.  Changes in pumpkin seed fat occur around that time, so pop them out of the oven before you lose their full power.  In case you need some pumpkin roasting tips, we have a few. Check them out:

1.  Clean ‘em up!  Get all of those slimy pumpkin innards off them.  We recommend you cook and eat the rest of that pumpkin, but to get nice crispy seeds, clean them off and rinse them with cold water in a colander.

  • 2.  Boil for 10 minutes in salt water.  Toss the seeds into a medium-sized pot of water with 1 tsp. of salt.  Bring the water to a boil,  then reduce the heat to a simmer (low-medium heat) and let the seeds cook for about 10 minutes.
  • 3.  Drain the seeds and dry them a bit with a towel or paper towels.
  • 4.  Spread them out on a baking sheet and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 to 1 tsp), then rub the oil in with your hands.  Spread the seeds out in a thin layer (try not to overlap much), and add a nice sprinkle of fine sea salt.  Bake for 10 minutes in a 325 degree oven.  Then, take the seeds out of the oven, stir them around and bake for another 5 minutes or so.  Feel free to take a few out in those last five minutes and test the seeds to make sure they’re not burning on the inside!

If you’re making Jack-o-Lanterns, then be sure to enjoy every bit of them that you can and save those seeds for roasting!  Healthy snack foods don’t get better than this.