Most of us know pumpkin as the fruit used for decorating Jack-o’- lanterns for Halloween, but other than just being a decorative fruit or vegetable, pumpkin offers numerous health benefits to your kids. Pumpkins get a lot of attention for a good reason. This winter squash is not a vegetable, but rather a healthy fruit that also contains nutritious edible seeds. The origin of pumpkin is not known but there is evidence that pumpkins were grown in Mexico and North America about 5000 to 7000 BC. Apart from Mexico, pumpkins have also been found on almost all the continents except for Antarctica. Today, the biggest producers of pumpkin are the United States, Canada, India, China and Mexico. Native Americans have long been using pumpkin seeds both for dietary and medicinal purposes. There are numerous health benefits of pumpkin seeds for kids. These health benefits can range from improved brain development, help in getting sound sleep, improved liver health, possesses antimicrobial properties, improved urodynamics and supply of essential vitamins and minerals. Though there are various benefits of pumpkin seeds, yet they are not recommended for infants. The reason is that there is a risk of choking with pumpkin seeds. The risk of allergy for pumpkin seeds is less. But, if your kid has an allergy for seeds or nuts such as cashew, pistachio, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, etc, then perhaps you might have to rethink about giving pumpkin seeds. Consult your pediatrician before giving pumpkin seeds to your child.
When can I start giving pumpkin seeds to my kids?
You can start giving pumpkin seeds to your toddler once he/she has strong enough teeth to chew regular solid food, which can usually be between 1 ½ years of age to 2 years of age. This is the age at which your baby has teeth strong enough to chew solid substances and more often the child is ready to eat adult meals, more or less. If you are still worried whether or not your child can chew the seeds, then you could simply grind the seeds and give it a kind of peanut butter consistency and start adding it to his or her diet. For this, you will need seeds in large quantities. You can prepare and store it in a jar. As your child grows older, you could make the consistency crunchier. An important thing to keep in mind is that when you start collecting these seeds from pumpkin fruit, make sure that before you serve the seeds to your child or if you’re trying to make a paste out of it, you need to remove the outer husk or layer that surrounds the seed. Although this is a time-consuming process, considering the benefits your child can get, it is worth the effort.
Pumpkin seeds benefits for kids
Improves Brain Development: Pumpkin seeds are a great source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are highly recommended for kids because of brain development. Brain development in children is as essential as the development of the rest of the body and this is one of the most important health benefits of pumpkin seeds. (Foods for your child’s brain development?)
Promotes sound sleep: Another benefit of pumpkin seeds is that they promote proper sleep in kids and adults. A study published in 2005 in Nutritional neuroscience suggested that consuming tryptophan alongside a carbohydrates source is one of the best ways to treat sleep deprivation. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which helps in producing serotonin and this in turn gets converted into melatonin which is a hormone that helps in getting better sleep. If your kid has trouble sleeping, having a few pumpkin seeds before bed with small amounts of carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit, may be beneficial in providing the body with tryptophan needed for melatonin production, which can lead to better sleep. For younger kids, powdered pumpkin seeds can be an option. (Why is sleep so important for your child’s brain development?)
Possesses Antimicrobial Properties: Pumpkin seeds also possess antimicrobial properties. Studies suggest that pumpkin seeds are effective in controlling bacteria such as S. aureus, E. coli and P. aeruginosa.
Improves Urodynamics: Traditionally, pumpkin seeds have been used for regulating passage of urine. Recent studies have confirmed that pumpkin seed oil can reduce bladder pressure, increase bladder compliance and reduce urethral pressure.
Rich in antioxidants: Antioxidants are compounds produced in your body or naturally found in some foods that scavenge or neutralize the effects of cell damage by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of antioxidants. (What are antioxidants?)
High in magnesium: Magnesium is one of the top four abundant minerals in the body. So, any deficiency of this mineral will easily reflect in daily life. Magnesium is key in formation of bones, maintaining blood flow and keeping stress low. It also brings relief to girls who suffer from menstrual cramps, leg cramps and irritable mood. For kids who deal with Asthma, which is on a rise due to hazardous air quality levels, magnesium can help. This marvelous mineral has calming effects and hence aids in reducing hyperactivity and lack of focus in kids. Daily intake of magnesium is necessary to maintain stock of the mineral in the body. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of magnesium, with 150 mg in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving. (Why is magnesium important for your child?)
Strengthens the liver: The unsaturated fats present in pumpkin seeds are good for strengthening the liver. Studies suggest that a mixture of pumpkin and flax seeds can reduce liver damage. (How to prevent liver disease in kids?)
Loaded with zinc: Zinc is considered an essential nutrient which means that the body cannot produce or store it. For this reason, it is very important to add zinc in your daily diet. Zinc is required for numerous processes in the body like gene expression, growth and development, immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing to name a few. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. (How can zinc help with hair and skin health?)
Rich in phosphorus: The health benefits of Phosphorus include supporting bone growth, aiding healthy digestion, eliminating toxins from the body, combating fatigue and weakness, preventing arthritis and osteoporosis and ensuring a healthy brain function.Phosphorus is found in high amounts in pumpkin seeds.
High in Potassium: Potassium is one of the seven essential macro minerals. The human body needs potassium to support the heart, the muscles, and the transmission of messages through the nervous system. Pumpkin seeds are rich in potassium. Potassium basically acts as an electrolyte and it is less harmful than sodium which is also an electrolyte. In most of our diets and also in our children’s diets, the presence of potassium is becoming very less and the presence of sodium is increasing rapidly which needs to be corrected. (How can potassium rich food help the bones?)
Pumpkin Seed Nutrition Facts:
In addition to this, other benefits of pumpkin seeds for kids are that they contain various other nutrients required by the body. They are a great source of healthy fats, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. Here’s a better look at the overall nutrition provided by one ounce (28 grams) of dried, roasted seed kernels.
According to The National Nutrient Database, the nutritional profile of Pumpkin Seeds includes:
|Nutrition||Value per 100 g||Nutrition||Value per 100 g|
|Protein||30.23 g||Carbohydrates||10.71 g|
|Fat||49.0 g||Dietary Fiber||6.0 g|
|Calories||559 kcal||Water||5.623 g|
|Calcium||46 mg||Copper||1.3 mg|
|Iron||8.82 mg||Magnesium||592 mg|
|Manganese||4.54 mg||Phosphorus||1233 mg|
|Potassium||809 mg||Sodium||7 mg|
|Zinc||7.81 mg||Niacin||4.98 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.143 mg||Choline||63 mg|
|Folate||58 mcg||Vitamin C||1.9 mg|
|Vitamin A||16 IU||Vitamin E||2.18 mg|
|Vitamin K||7.3 mcg||Thiamine||0.273 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.153 mg||Pantothenic Acid||0.75 mg|
Recipe: Pumpkin hummus/ spread/sauce with hidden herbs and nuts
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- Serve with roti, wrap, bread, crackers, pasta or pizza sauce or raw vegetables.
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