Don't toss out the guts of your jack-o'-lantern. Those slimy innards? They're chock full of superfood goodness.
Pepitas, or the kernels of pumpkin seeds, are the crunchy green nut that's perfect for roasting, toasting, and topping salads and soups. Like most nuts and seeds, they're loaded with healthy fats such as plant-based omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid as well as vitamin E.
Pepitas are unique in their vitamin E production, and contain multiple forms of the vitamin—this makes it more bioavailable, or easier to digest, for humans. Because of it's high measurement of vitamin E, it's incredible for hair, skin, and nails. In a study of men with alopecia, those who ate pumpkin seeds for six months had 40 percent more hair growth than those who took a placebo.
So if you're looking for luscious locks, amp up your pumpkin game. But what about beautiful skin? These little seeds have you covered. They contain a diverse selection of antioxidants that aren't typically found in the food we eat, which means they're even better at fighting free radicals that damage cells and have deleterious effects like inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.
A hearty dose of good fats and antioxidants is pretty commonly found in most superfoods, but a more surprising element found in pepitas? Tryptophan. Yep, the same stuff vilified for making you conk out after eating too much turkey is an important amino acid that the body converts into serotonin. And of course, serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps us achieve balanced and stable moods.
And it doesn't take eating a whole bag to reap the benefits of these little seeds—just a quarter of a cup sprinkled over a salad or mixed into granola will impart more than half of your daily value of phosphorous, maganese, magnesium, copper, and a healthy dose of zinc and iron. Add in the fact that the oil from pumpkin seeds is antimicrobial, and this snack is perfect for keeping you healthy this cold and flu season.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho