Nuts and seeds definitely have a place in the keto diet. They’re low in carbs and high in fiber and healthy fats, making them the perfect snacks to help you meet your macros.
Pumpkin seeds, in particular, pack a hefty nutritional punch and contain a meaningful amount of healthy fats, zinc, vitamin K, iron and more. But are pumpkin seeds keto?
Read on to see why pumpkin seeds aren’t just keto friendly, but a smart addition to your keto meal plan.
Pumpkin Seed Nutrition
Similar to nuts, seeds are packed with essential nutrients. Since seeds are embryonic — like little plant embryos — they naturally contain all the nutrients the plant will need to sprout and thrive.
Pumpkin seeds, in particular, pack a hefty nutritional punch with plenty of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and selenium.
Just ¼ cup serving of pumpkin seeds (kernel only, no husk) contains[*]:
3 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
#1: Pumpkin Seeds Are Rich Source of Magnesium
Your body uses magnesium in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, including food metabolism, muscle recovery, and nerve function.
That’s why signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency often include headaches, migraines, sore and tender muscles, hyperirritability (being excessively grumpy for no reason), exaggerated symptoms of PMS, and muscle spasms[*].
A ¼ cup serving of pumpkin seeds provides nearly 50% of your daily value of magnesium. That makes pumpkin seeds a great ketogenic snack or addition to your favorite keto recipe.
Magnesium is also important for keeping your blood sugar levels in check and your blood pressure on point.
In one 12-week study in patients with advanced kidney disease, seed supplements reduced blood sugar, insulin levels, and inflammatory markers, likely because of their nutritional and fatty acid profile[*].
#2: A Natural Source of Iron
Iron is a tricky nutrient to supplement. Unless you’re anemic or are otherwise directed by your doctor, you probably want to get your iron from natural sources like pumpkin seeds.
Iron supplementation can come with side effects like:
- Upset stomach
Raw, organic pumpkin seeds, however, pack nearly a third your daily iron needs. Iron deficiency can feel like:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
Women are much more likely to become iron-deficient, especially menstruating women. If you’re looking for a natural source of iron, definitely add more pumpkin seeds to your day.
#3: May Help Lower Blood Sugar Levels
It makes sense — pumpkin seeds are high in protein, fat, and fiber, and low in total carbohydrates.
Both rat and human studies suggest that pumpkin and pumpkin seed preparations can lower blood sugar and inflammation, which can help diabetes patients[*].
Diets high in dietary magnesium also contribute to lower incidences of type 2 diabetes. An observational study found that people who consumed more magnesium were 33-34% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the first place[*].
#4: A Good Source of Healthy Fats
Pumpkin seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. You need both of these in a healthy, well-rounded diet and they both have their benefits.
However, omega-3s are notoriously more difficult for Americans to get in their diet. In fact, most Westerners consume way more omega-6 fats in the form of vegetable oils and processed foods than is recommended — about 20:1 O6:O3 ratio.
The ideal ratio is more like 4:1 or even 1:1.
Pumpkin seeds don’t just offer a supply of omega-3s, they also provide the inactive omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA), which gets converted into anti-inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
How to Buy and Store Pumpkin Seeds
Like all of your groceries, quality matters when it comes to choosing and buying your seeds. Here’s a short checklist that will help you get the highest-quality seeds possible:
- Lightly dry roasted or raw
- Small batch
- No additive oils
- No unwanted additives like sweeteners or preservatives
Safety Concerns to Keep in Mind about Pumpkin Seeds
Phytates or Anti-Nutrients
Phytic acid is a natural compound that plants produce to protect themselves from predators. You can find phytic acid in nuts and seeds like Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseed.
But despite a lot of bad press, phytic acid isn’t quite as bad as some people make it out to be.
Yes, it does impair the absorption of some nutrients like zinc, iron, and calcium. However, this only applies to the meal you’re eating the phytic acid with — not your entire day’s food intake[*].
Phytic acid can also be tough to digest, which is especially problematic if you already suffer from gut issues like dysbiosis or leaky gut.
If you’re worried about the phytic acid, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Avoid consuming massive amounts of nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Purchase sprouted seeds or soak your own raw pumpkin seeds in water overnight. Roast your seeds on a low-temperature with a little sea salt until they’re perfectly crispy.
This preparation will also help if you’re worried about phytic acid’s effect on your gut lining.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
You need high-quality sources of omega-6 fatty acids to thrive, but too many can cause inflammation and throw off your omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratios.
Pumpkin seeds do contain omega-6 fatty acids, but in their inactive linoleic acid (LA) form. To convert these into anti-inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), you’ll need plenty of cofactors like vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
In short, if you’re following a healthy keto diet with plenty of good fats and zero crappy vegetable oils, you don’t need to worry about becoming omega-6 dominant.
Make sure to eat your pumpkin seeds as a part of a diverse keto diet with plenty of low-carb veggies, high-quality protein, and healthy fats to get all the benefits of GLA.
Pumpkin Seeds Recipes
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Freshly roasted pumpkin seeds delicious, nutty, and easy to prepare at home.
Preheat your oven to 350° F.
Take your raw, unshelled pumpkin seeds and mix with sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Mix well and then add a splash of extra virgin olive oil. Mix some more.
Spread thinly on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Crunchy Keto Rosemary Crackers
This pumpkin seed recipe is a perfect solution for when you’re craving crackers, but want to keep keto. The olive oil blends perfectly with the rosemary and garlic to bring out a satisfying, savory nutrition profile. Get the recipe here.
Pumpkin Seeds For Powerful Nutrition
It’s difficult to find foods with a satisfying crunch when you’re on a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Roasted pumpkin seeds provide that crunch, plus a nutty, deliciously umami taste that goes well on everything from salads to soups and keto oatmeal.
You can grind up pumpkin seeds and use them in place of flour, or mixed with coconut flour or almond flour for extra healthy fats.
In addition to being ketogenic, this is also a gluten-free option. This is perfect for breading foods like organic, free range, ethically raised chicken. Oven roasted, keto chicken strips anyone?
Pumpkin seeds pack a lot of nutrition, are easy to find at most stores, and are fairly inexpensive.
And they’re a free bonus if you’re roasting up your own pumpkin or squash. As long as you’re watching your total carbs, you can add pumpkin seeds to your keto lifestyle.