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Are Pumpkin Seeds Keto? Benefits, Risks, Carbs & Pepitas Recipes

By Thomas Wrona Published on

Table of Contents

Pumpkin seeds, AKA Pepitas, are loaded with important nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and copper. But on a keto diet, there are also macronutrients to consider, namely fat content and carbs. And there’s also the presence of plant toxins and antinutrients to watch out for. So you may be wondering, are pumpkin seeds keto? 

In this article, we’ll explore the keto-friendliness of pumpkin seeds, their carb content, health benefits, and risks. We’ll also introduce two easy keto pumpkin seed recipes. 

Pumpkin Seeds on Keto

Though enjoyed for ages, pumpkin seeds are experiencing a popular resurgence, only under a new name: pepitas! 

These green shell-less pumpkin seeds look a little different than those you get from a jack o’lantern. They come from the same family, and they’re easier to eat. 

When considering pumpkin seeds (pepitas) on a keto diet the first thing to consider is that keto means eating high-fat, low-car, and moderate protein. 

A ketogenic diet generally calls for the following macronutrient breakdown: 

  • 70-80% of calories from fat
  • 15-30% calories from protein
  • 0-10% calories from carbohydrate

Looking at pumpkin seeds, we see that their carbs, fat, and protein content aligns them perfectly with these ratios. This makes them an especially good fit for vegetarian keto, and vegan keto dieters. 

pumpkin seeds keto nutrients

Source:nutrientoptimiser.com

Carbs in Pumpkin Seeds

When considering carbs in pumpkin seeds on keto, a few ounces of pumpkin seeds per serving, won’t be an issue for most people. 

In fact, pumpkin seeds are one of the lowest carb seeds out there. See how they compare to chia and sunflower seeds below: 

CarbohydratesPer 1oz. Per 100 grams
Pumpkin Seeds1.4g4.9g
Sunflower Seeds1.7g6g
Chia Seeds2.2g8g

Pumpkin Seeds Nutrition 

If eggs are a whole animal food, then seeds are a whole plant food. Pumpkin seeds are essentially little plant embryos that contain all the nutrients needed to grow and nourish a pumpkin. 

USDA nutritional analysis reveals that pumpkin seeds deliver large amounts of copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc, along with electrolytes. [1] A cup of pumpkin seeds contains the following array of nutrients:

1 Cup Pumpkin Seeds (unshelled) 
Calories 765
Fat63.2 grams
Saturated Fat11.6  grams
Total Carbohydrates14.1  grams
Fiber7.7 grams
Net Carbs6.4 grams
Protein38.6 grams
VITAMINS
Vitamin K7.7%
Vitamin B614%
Choline14%
Vitamin B215%
Vitamin E19%
Vitamin B519%
Vitamin B130%
Vitamin B340%
MINERALS
Selenium22%
Potassium27% 
Iron63%
Zinc73%
Phosphorus159%
Magnesium182%
Copper191%
Manganese254%

Pumpkin Seeds: Keto-friendly benefits

Pumpkin seeds are popular with keto-dieters for a reason — they’re a convenient source of keto fats and proteins. But they can offer numerous other benefits. 

Reduced Risk of  Type 2 Diabetes 

Studies show that one’s risk of type 2 diabetes decreases by 15 percent for every 100 milligrams of pumpkin seeds consumed. [5

In those with diabetes, pumpkin seeds may protect against glycation and other types of oxidative stress. [4

In animal studies, pumpkin seeds along with juice and meat have been shown to reduce blood sugar. 10 11

Other studies suggest that pumpkin seeds’ protection against diabetes may have to do with it’s magnesium content. 

Pumpkin Seeds are a Great Source of Magnesium

A cup of pumpkin seeds contains a whopping 183% of your body’s daily magnesium requirements. 

You can think of magnesium as a relaxing electrolyte due to how it regulates muscular neurotransmission and relaxes the body. Your body uses magnesium for more than 600 biochemical reactions. [2] Some of these key functions include: 

  • Maintaining healthy  blood pressure 3 
  • Protecting against heart disease 4
  • Maintenance and formation of healthy bones 5
  • Regulating healthy blood sugar levels 6 7

Magnesium’s importance is especially evident when you’re not getting enough of it. 

Magnesium deficiency can lead to symptoms as diverse as migraines, muscle pains, muscle cramps,  irritability, and more. [8]

The combination of magnesium and potassium in pumpkins seeds on keto may also help you avoid uncomfortable keto side effects (“keto flu”) when just starting out. 

Unfortunately, around 79% of American adults consume less than recommended levels of magnesium. 9  

Improve Prostate and Bladder Health

Several studies have found that pumpkin seeds may be effective in relieving symptoms of an enlarged prostate syndrome called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) while improving quality of life. 10 11

Other research reveals that pumpkin seeds can soothe an overactive bladder. A study of 45 people found that 10 grams of pumpkin seed extract resulted in urinary function improvements. 12

Pumpkin Seeds are a Great Source of Iron 

At 63% RDV per cup, the iron content in pumpkin seeds on keto makes them an important food for women who are nursing, pregnant, or just trying to boost their natural fertility

That’s because these groups of women have much higher iron demands than men — and correspondingly higher chances of developing iron-deficiency anemia.  

The iron in pumpkin seeds (pepitas) is also beneficial for athletes. Iron directly helps keep the blood oxygenated. Adequate iron stores allow athletes to train hard and bounce back quickly. While sufficient amounts of serum iron acts as an antioxidant. 

However, the iron in plant foods is far less bioavailable than the heme iron you get from keto meats and organ meats

If you’re serious about upping your iron intake we strongly recommend red meat and other whole animal foods. Or supplementing with dessicated organ meats.

Linked to a Reduced Risk of Various Cancers

Observational studies have found that pumpkin seeds are associated with a reduced risk of prostate, colon, lung, stomach, and breast cancers. 13

One large-scale study of postmenopausal women found that pumpkin seeds were associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. 14

Researcher suggests that this effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer may be due to compounds called lignans. 15

In vitro studies have explored the use of pumpkin seeds in the prevention of prostate cancer with positive results. 16 17

Pumpkin Seeds May Help your Body Burn Fat

The keto diet is already effective at promoting fat-burning, and pumpkin seeds may heighten this effect further.  

Studies show that pumpkin seeds can lower high blood sugar and related inflammatory problems — setting the stage for higher rates of fat oxidation in the process. 

Since pumpkin seeds only contain 4-6 grams of net carbs per serving, they definitely won’t be kicking you out of ketosis anytime soon. [6

High in Fat!

1 cup of pumpkin seeds provides a robust 63 grams of fat–the key nutrient your body needs when you’re eating keto. 

However, the fatty acid content of pumpkin seeds is a double-edged sword. While the omega 3 and omega 6 fats they contain are essential to life, getting too many omega-6’s can be detrimental. 

Unfortunately, when you’re eating a standard American diet loaded with seeds oils, your average omega-3:6 ratio is 1:16. Yet we evolved on a 1:1 ratio. This imbalance is a major contributor to our modern epidemic of inflammatory diseases. [7]

That said, In the context of a healthy, animal-based keto diet, especially one loaded with omega-3 fatty fish, pumpkin seeds can really shine. 

Drawbacks to Pumpkins Seeds

The dose makes the poison when it comes to pumpkin seeds — most of their potential downsides just have to do with eating too much of them without a balance of omega-3 rich animal foods. Here are three drawbacks to be aware of.  

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

This downside is likely the biggest of them all. As we said above, pumpkin seeds are high in an inflammatory omega-6 fat called linoleic acid. 

The good news is that pumpkin seeds’ linoleic acid content can be converted to a less inflammatory fat called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). For this conversion to occur, however, you’ll need to ensure that you’re getting plenty of vitamin C, zinc, and B6. These nutrients act as cofactors in the conversion process. [8]

Plant Toxins and Antinutrients 

Most seeds contain plant compounds designed to protect them at all costs from both predators (like us humans!) and environmental threats like molds. Pumpkin seeds are no different. 

Nutritional analysis shows that pumpkin seeds are high in an antinutrient called phytic acid. 

Phytic acid can reduce the bioavailability of important vitamins and minerals, including zinc, calcium, iron, and more. On the bright side, phytic acid only blocks the absorption of the nutrients present in the meal you’re eating. [9]

Phytic acid may still be worth avoiding, though, especially if you suffer from pre-existing digestive or bacterial problems. You can reduce your phytic acid consumption in several ways:

  • Avoid eating more than a few servings of nuts/seeds/legumes per week
  • Sprout your pumpkin seeds by soaking them in water overnight
  • Roast your pumpkin seeds at low heat, then sprinkle with vinegar or sea salt

Excess Fiber 

Pumpkin seeds contain tons of fiber — between 7 and 12 grams per one-cup serving, to be exact. 

This fiber can be problematic since it ferments in the gut and encourages bacterial growth. Fiber is so mechanically hard to break down, in fact, that it can heat up the organs surrounding the intestinal tract en route to causing fertility problems. 

If you have irritable bowel issues fiber can also inflame your symptoms and should be avoided. 

And you might be surprised to hear that fiber is actually not essential at all. The idea that we need fiber is actually a myth. Recent studies show that we may actually be better off without it. 18 19

Keto Pumpkin Seed Recipes

If you’re not susceptible to irritable bowel issues, and you’re enjoying pumpkin seeds as part of a diet centered around whole animal foods, give these must-try keto-friendly recipes a shot!

Simple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The ingredients: 

The process: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit 
  2. Mix raw unshelled pumpkin seeds with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  3. Drizzle on the fat, then mix well
  4. Spread mixture on a baking sheet, bake for around 15 minutes
  5. Let cool, then enjoy!

Crunchy Keto Pumpkin Seed Crackers

The ingredients:

  • Water (3 tbsp)
  • Chia Seeds (2 tbsp)
  • Parmesan Cheese (2 tbsp)
  • Rosemary, Fresh (½ tsp)
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) (¼ cup)
  • Almond flour (2 oz)
  • Ghee or tallow (2 tbsp)
  • Walnuts (¼ cup)
  • Salt/pepper to taste

The process:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit
  2. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper
  3. Add walnuts and pumpkin seeds to a food processor and pulse into crumbs
  4. Add crumb mixture to a mixing bowl with almond flour, chia seeds, rosemary, grated parmesan, and salt/pepper
  5. Mix water and oil into the bowl, then stir into a dough
  6. Wrap dough in cloth and let it chill in the fridge for 10 minutes
  7. Remove dough from the fridge, then place it on a clean countertop
  8. Roll the dough down to an even thickness of about 3 mm
  9. Use a cookie cutter to cut out ~20 crackers
  10. Transfer crackers to a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown
  11. Allow to cool completely…then enjoy with cheese or creme fraiche!  

Are Pumpkin Seeds Keto? The Takeaway

Pumpkin seeds, AKA pepitas, are keto when considering their macronutrient profile. They are high in fat, low-carb, and moderate protein. They’re also abundant in important nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and zinc. 

However, pumpkin seeds are high in omega-6 fatty acids. This is fine if combined with a diet high in omega-3’s from animal found sources. But can lead to inflammation if not balanced. 

There’s also the issue of plant toxins and antinutrients that can be harmful for sensitive people. 

But if you’re incorporating pumpkin seeds into a well-formulated keto diet centered on whole animal foods, they can be a great keto snack, while providing hard-to-get potassium. 

 

©2020 Doctor ROBERT KILTZ. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED