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Pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack

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Pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack

This Halloween, don’t toss those tasty seeds you’re scooping out of the stringy guts of the jack-o'-lantern. They’re an easy and delicious snack even the kids will love. Store-bought pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are easy to eat and loaded with nutrients — but they may be loaded with salt as well. When they come straight from the source, pumpkin seeds are lower in sodium and have more of the minerals that make them so nutritious.

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How to roast fresh pumpkin seeds:

  1. Once you've scooped them out of the pumpkin, it's best to soak them in water for a few hours then rinse and drain in a colander to help remove the pulp from the shells. (There's nothing wrong with eating the fleshy bits that are attached to the shells, but many don't care for the texture.)

  2. Add your favorite seasonings and spices. Experiment with different flavors — try sweet cinnamon, savory garlic or spicy cayenne.

  3. Roast the seeds on a cookie sheet on the top rack of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Stir and toss occasionally so they brown more evenly.

Enjoy a nutritious snack:

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten with or without their shells. Eating the shells adds extra crunch and more fiber, which has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and obesity. Whole, roasted pumpkin seeds in their shells have about 5.2 grams of fiber per serving, while shelled seeds have just 1.8 grams.

Pumpkin seeds are also rich in other nutrients, including magnesium, which is good for heart and bone health and helps lower blood pressure. Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds includes 42% percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium, a nutrient many of us don’t get enough of.

A serving of seeds contains about 6.6 mg of zinc, which is almost half the recommended daily intake. Zinc is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent that helps boost your immune system.

Here are more science-backed benefits of pumpkin seeds:

  • They're a natural source of tryptophan, which can help you sleep better.
  • They’ve been linked to a reduced risk of some types of cancer including breast and prostate.
  • Studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil may help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure.
  • They may help maintain blood sugar levels, which is important for people who have diabetes.
  • They’re a source of healthier unsaturated fats.

So don’t let the seeds of your grinning pumpkin pal go to waste. You can munch on them as a smart snack, toss them into salads and soups, and even bake with them. For example, they add a healthy crunch to this Sweet Potato Casserole.

How will pumpkin seed your culinary creativity this Halloween?