Many men have problems with their prostate as they age. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that produces semen.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are the edible seeds of a pumpkin. Whether you enjoy them raw or in the form of pumpkin seed oil, they are packed with nutrition and may support prostate health. Because of this, pumpkin seeds are a popular folk remedy for men’s health issues.
According to a 2014 study, both pumpkin seed oil and a combination of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil may improve benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) symptoms. Researchers concluded that pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil are safe and effective alternative treatments for BPH.
An earlier study found that pumpkin seed oil could block certain types of prostate growth. The study looked at rats induced with testosterone and the alpha-blocker drug Prazosin. Testosterone is thought to play a role in the development of BPH, although it’s not completely clear why.
One theory is that dihydrotestosterone, a powerful metabolite of testosterone, builds up in the prostate and causes it to grow. The phytochemicals in pumpkin seeds may reduce the effects of dihydrotestosterone on the prostate. They may also block the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
Zinc is critical to normal prostate function. In fact, a normal prostate has the highest levels of zinc in the body. Results of a 2011 study showed that malignant prostate tissue and prostate tissue from men with BPH had significantly less zinc than normal prostate tissue. The study also found an increase in urinary zinc excretion.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc. One cup provides almost half the recommended daily allowance (RDA). More studies are needed to link the zinc in pumpkin seeds to prostate health. But it’s thought that eating a handful of seeds several times a week may help keep your zinc levels optimal.
There isn’t a standard recommended dosage of pumpkin seeds to treat prostate problems. Some doctors recommend eating a handful daily for general health benefits.
Commercially prepared raw or roasted pumpkin seeds are available at most grocery stores or natural health food stores. Organic brands are grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
If you have access to a pumpkin, you can prepare your own pumpkin seeds by following these steps:
- Remove the pumpkin seeds from the inside of the pumpkin. Be sure to rinse or wipe off any attached pumpkin pulp.
- Spread the seeds in a single layer on a paper bag or on paper towels. Allow the seeds to dry overnight.
If you don’t want to eat the seeds raw, you can cook them. Place them on a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 170°F (77°C).
For added flavor, toss the seeds with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with sea salt or your favorite seasonings.
Cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil is usually made from shelled seeds, although some manufacturers also use the shells. It may be eaten straight, added to smoothies, or drizzled over salads and vegetables. Pumpkin seed oil goes rancid easily and should be stored in a cool, dark place, or refrigerated to extend its shelf life.
Risks and warnings
Most people eat pumpkin seeds in moderation without experiencing negative side effects. You can eat raw or roasted pumpkin seeds and shells. You can also eat hulled pumpkin seeds. Both are available at natural food stores and many grocery stores.
Pumpkin seed shells are chewy. Their edges may also become sharp during chewing. If you have any difficulty chewing food or swallowing, you may want to stick to eating hulled varieties.
Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber. One cup contains almost 12 grams. If you eat too many, you may experience gas and bloating. Fiber helps bulk up stool and prevents constipation in the long run, but eating a lot of pumpkin seeds at once may actually cause constipation.
As you snack on pumpkin seeds, keep in mind they’re high in calories and fat. One cup contains around 285 calories and 12 grams of fat. Regularly eating too many may cause weight gain.
Pumpkin seed oil may help treat hair loss in men with androgenetic alopecia, according to a 2014 study. The study followed 76 men with the condition for 24 weeks. Participants were given either 400 milligrams of pumpkin seed oil daily or a placebo. The men who received pumpkin seed oil experienced a 40 percent increase in hair growth.
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium. Eating just one ounce of pumpkin seeds can give you 74 percent of the RDA. Magnesium helps keep you energetic. It also helps regulate blood pressure, supports muscle and nerve function, and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
A 2015 study found that replacing dietary oils that are high in saturated fat with pumpkin seed oil improves cholesterol and triglycerides and their effects. Virgin pumpkin seed oil also showed anti-inflammatory abilities.
Pumpkin seed oil may also help overactive bladder. Results of a small 2014 study showed pumpkin seed oil significantly reduced overactive bladder symptoms, such as urinary frequency, urgency, and urgency incontinence.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of other minerals, including:
Pumpkin seeds also contain small amounts of vitamins that include:
- vitamin A
Pumpkin seeds have the potential to be an effective treatment and preventative for prostate problems and other conditions. More research is needed before they become a mainstream complementary treatment.
If you choose to eat pumpkin seeds for prostate health, you may see benefits within a few weeks, but there are no guarantees. Results will depend on your health situation, how often you eat the seeds, and the quality of the seeds. At the very least, you can replace unhealthy snacks with pumpkin seeds and enjoy the bounty of nutrients they offer.