You might be accustomed to spitting them out as you eat — seed spitting contest, anyone? Some people just opt for seedless. But the nutritional value of watermelon seeds may convince you otherwise.

Watermelon seeds are low in calories and are nutrient dense. When roasted, they’re crispy and can easily take the place of other unhealthy snack options.

One ounce of watermelon seed kernels contains approximately 158 calories. That’s not much lower than an ounce of Lay’s Potato Chips (160 calories), but let’s take a look at what constitutes an ounce.

A large handful of watermelon seeds weighs about 4 grams and contains about just 23 calories. Far less than a bag of potato chips!

One of several minerals found in watermelon seeds is magnesium. In a 4-gram serving, you’ll get 21 mg of magnesium, which is 5 percent of the daily value.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends adults get 420 mg of this mineral daily. Magnesium is essential for many of the body’s metabolic functions. It’s also required to maintain nerve and muscle function, as well as immune, heart, and bone health.

A handful of watermelon seeds contains about 0.29 mg of iron, or about 1.6 percent of the daily value. It might not seem like much, but the NIH only recommends adults get 18 mg in their day.

Iron is an important component of hemoglobin — carrying oxygen through the body. It also helps your body convert calories into energy.

However, watermelon seeds contain phytate, which decreases the absorption of iron and reduces their nutritional value.

Watermelon seeds also provide a good source of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids — one large handful (4 grams) provides 0.3 and 1.1 grams, respectively.

According to the American Heart Association, these fats are useful in protecting against heart attack and stroke, and lowering levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood.

Watermelon seeds are also good source of zinc. They provide about 26 percent of the daily value in one ounce, or 4 percent DV in one large handful (4 grams).

Zinc is an important nutrient, essential to the immune system. It’s also necessary for:

  • the body’s digestive and nervous systems
  • cell regrowth and division
  • your senses of taste and smell

However, just like with iron, phytates reduce the absorption of zinc.

Roasting watermelon seeds is easy. Set your oven at 325°F and place the seeds on a baking sheet. It should only take about 15 minutes for them to roast, but you may want to stir them halfway through to ensure an even crispiness.

You can make the seeds taste even better by adding a little olive oil and salt, or sprinkling them with cinnamon and a light dusting of sugar. If you prefer more flavor, you can add lime juice and chili powder, or even cayenne pepper.

Watermelon seeds have many health benefits. Although the amounts of some minerals and vitamins within them may seem low, they are still far preferable to potato chips and other unhealthy snacks.

How much nutrition you reap from watermelon seeds depends largely on how many you eat. Because they’re small, you need to eat quite a few to get their considerable benefits.

However, when you compare their nutritional value to that of other snacks, watermelon seeds come out far ahead.