Within nutrition nowadays, the quality, variety and provenance of what you eat, is often much more important, much more decisive, than the common or colloquial name of the food ingredient. Despite the unassuming simplicity of a given named ingredient: lemon, honey, garlic, soya sauce, ginger, olive oil, cheese, tomato, (or 10,000 others besides), the quality, the authenticity, the purity (i.e. adulterant and chemical load), the cultivar, the soil, the nutritional density, and when applicable - the terroir, varies so tremendously for the majority of foods or ingredients, they can be universes apart, qualitatively speaking.
Many of my clients and longterm readers, might know that I have long heralded a specific fruit seed as being a potent nutritional powerhouse, above all other common nuts/seeds, and that everyone, regardless of what genre of diet they might eat, should consider including them in their diet. The fruit in question is the pumpkin, and the seed in question, the pumpkin seed. But, hold on a moment, there is much more to the story to be told. Beyond the simple colloquial name, there is much deeper nutritional treasure to be discovered.
You see, the vast majority of folks dining down on the pumpkin seeds are using seeds that are just the bare bones of what pumpkin seeds can be, namely, the pumpkin seeds grown in China. These commercial Chinese seeds, which provide much of the world supply, are nearly always chemically treated and pasteurised - whether “organic certified” or not. Even before processing, the seeds are nutritionally inferior, but the heat treatment and chemicals typically used in the “cleaning” process further degrade the integrity of the seeds lipid profile, fat soluble vitamin levels, including the protective Vitamin E and other antioxidant compounds like the polyphenols.
By stark comparison, there exists a unique cultivar of pumpkin seed, from a protected European region, that deserves to be considered the King or Queen of Pumpkin seeds. The unique “naked” pumpkin seeds of the heirloom Lady Godiva pumpkin, famously grown in a highly forested, mountainous state called Styria (Steiermark in German) in the country of Austria. These large dark green seeds are night and day different from the Chinese variety, and are a true, under-recognised superfood. Though the Austrians had been growing the Central American crop for hundred of years, 90 years ago or so, there was a chance adaptation/mutation amongst a single heirloom pumpkin variety that yielded novel hull-less or “naked” seeds. Where previously every pumpkin seed from the cavernous pumpkin was surrounded by a whitish/cream seed coat, now the pumpkin seeds could be scooped out and eaten as is, saving incredible time and energy. This so-called Lady Godiva pumpkin, as naked as Lady Godiva herself, was grown far and wide across Styria, much of it on land that has always been naturally and organically farmed, for hundreds of years prior. This unique pumpkin would go on to shape the agricultural culture of Styria forever, and today the region is famous for its high quality pumpkin seeds and high quality dark green pumpkin seed oil, which is used across the region, in much the same way that Olive Oil is used in the Mediterranean.
Now we are all caught up, here are 6 reasons why these exceptional heirloom seeds - the Styrian pumpkin seeds, are one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
They are a rich source of spermidine.
Chances are that you might not have heard about spermidine yet. But there is plenty of evidence suggesting that it is considerably more important a molecule than resveratrol, in its role in longevity extension and you will be hearing a lot more about it, in the coming years. Spermidine is a naturally occurring polyamine distributed all throughout nature; it is made naturally by the human body, and also, by healthy microflora colonies within us. Spermidine levels, however, typically decline as we get older. Dietary sources of Spermidine can redress this shortfall, and lift our spermidine levels up to ever more youthful levels. Spermidine has also been shown to improve the biomarkers of brain decline and can help stop senility and dementia in its tracks. Spermidine is most famous for its role in autophagy within the body, which is an absolutely central aspect of much anti-aging research. Autophagy is the cellular ability for the body to breakdown, recycle and upcycle old or ailing organelles or components, thereby reversing senescence, and by doing that, organisms can live healthily, for longer. This has already been successfully shown in yeast, fruit fly and mice studies, where lifespan was significantly improved just through the inclusion of in diet spermidine. Consumption of spermidine in human studies has been correlated with decreased blood pressure, lower incidence of heart disease, increased immunity and neuroproective effects including reversal of brain decline. So, spermidine is big news, and significantly, Styrian pumpkin seeds were recently studied for their spermidine content and they have been found to be a rich source, at 10,4mg spermidine per 100g of Styrian pumpkin seeds.
These seeds are raw and you can sprout them if you want to.
Genuinely raw seeds, capable of being sprouted, just provide differently. Firstly, all of the sensitive lipid components, the essential fatty acids (Omegas 6 and 3) and unsaturated fatty acids inside the pumpkin seeds are kept beautifully intact, as are those equally sensitive fat soluble vitamins. Secondly, those important antioxidants and polyphenols, a good deal of which you can see represented in the dark green skin, and just underneath the skin, of the Styrian seed are maximally preserved. Compare that to the pale Chinese seeds, which have a markedly lower concentration of protective phenolic compounds and colourful protective pigments such as lutein. Just to compare the pale Chinese cultivated pumpkin seed oil against the Styrian pumpkin seed oil is a "night and day" experience. The dark vibrant green of the Styrian oil against the pale yellow of the Chinese oil, gives a very telling indication of the difference underneath the hood of these two contrasting types of pumpkin seed.
All raw seeds contain some level of anti-nutrient, but the genuinely raw ones have a magic transformative trick up their sleeve that make their ingestion much more nutritious vs pasteurised/cooked seeds. When the seeds are soaked, the water "switches on" the germination process. If you are able to initiate the germination process, biologically two things happen (and this is way before any physical sign of germination "shoots out". 1), some of the principle anti-nutrient phytate is released into the water. 2), the enzyme called phytase is activated and liberated. The job of phytase is extremely important, both within plant biology and also human nutrition. The job of phytase is to dissolve or breakdown phytate stores in the seed, so that germination can be carried out. Phytase is the hidden remedy for dissolving away anti-nutrient stores in the seed, and, therefore, freeing-up all of that immense nutrition for our body’s needs.This can only be done if the pumpkin seed is genuinely raw, just like the Styrian Pumpkin seeds. In short, cooked/pasteurised seeds will not have any phytase, their anti-nutrient content will therefore be higher, and the amount of seed nutrition bound up by the anti-nutrients will also be higher.
These seeds are a great source of natural Vitamin E.
Styrian Pumpkin seeds contain about 30% more Vitamin E than the commercial Chinese seeds, especially in the form of gamma-tocopherol, of which the Styrian seeds are a particularly rich source. The vitamin E is also of a much higher integrity as the seed is completely raw, so vitamin E stores have not been thermally degraded. In their pressed form, the oil of Styrian pumpkin seeds contain about 6 times more Vitamin E than olive oil. In nature, the job of vitamin E is to protect the highly sensitive polyunsaturated fats found in the seed. Seed cultivars that have higher levels of vitamin E, not only pass on an important source of the essential vitamin onto humans, they also do a much better job of protecting those oils, within the seed, from oxidative damage and prevent free-radical cascades, just as it does in our own body to protect the integrity of our tissues and cells. The whole seed package is stabilised and preserved thanks to naturally high vitamin E levels. It may surprise you to know, that getting a high quality natural Vitamin E supplement is not an easy thing to do, as nearly all supplements out there are synthetic and/or of GMO origin. However, just consuming 30g of the soaked organic Styrian seeds will give you around 85% of the RDA of vitamin E, all by themselves. High quality raw Vitamin E is an incredible thing to have dialled-in with your diet.
The seeds are a European saw palmetto. A phytosterol-rich functional food to reverse baldness and prostate problems.
Just like saw palmetto berries, pumpkin seeds are rich in a number of highly beneficial plant sterols, including the well-researched sterol, beta-Sitosterol. When compared to the Chinese seed, the Styrian seeds are much richer still and contain a broader spectrum of different families of sterols. While saw palmetto berries are expensive and are almost exclusively grown in and around Florida, our pumpkin seeds are 10 times cheaper and much more local (unless you are a Floridian, of course). What is more, you are highly likely to ingest them in significantly larger quantities than you would with saw palmetto, thereby benefiting from increased beta-Sitosterol intake (and sterols intake, in general). Beta-Sitosterol has many benefits, but is especially acclaimed for the treatment of two very common, but very different conditions, enlarged prostate and male (or female) pattern baldness/hairloss. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (or BPH) is a fairly serious enlargement of the prostate that can cause tremendous discomfort, including difficulty with urination. The natural sterols in pumpkin seeds effectively reduce the inflammation by reducing the conversion of testosterone into the pro-inflammatory androgen DHT (by blocking the action of 5-alpha reductase). Utilising the exact same mechanism, pumpkin seeds have been shown to halt and even reverse pattern hairloss or androgenetic alopecia. There are other rich compounds in the pumpkin seeds that also promote hair growth and hair thickness and condition, notably, the featured mineral of our next point.
The seeds are one of the very highest sources of zinc.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the very best food sources of zinc period. Styrian pumpkin seeds, even higher again, and, because they are raw, the zinc present is better extracted, especially when the storehouse of phytase is released during a soaking phase. Zinc is an absolutely critical mineral, and a good 80% simply are not getting enough, which is a shame as it literally prevents premature ageing of tissues (from skin and collagen integrity to macular health of the eyes). Zinc is essential for everything from DNA repair, cell and tissue repair, the healing of wounds, the structural composition and integrity of your entire body, including, of course, your skin, your hair, your nails, your gums. On top of that, it is essential for proper immune function, and keeping bacteria and yeast colonies within healthy and harmonious ranges. If you find your energies flagging, increasing the zinc content of your diet, should be one of the first moves to make, after all, zinc is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body, and if those reactions are not happening as they should, you are going to feel sluggish, lethargic and slow. Just 30g of Styrian pumpkin seeds will give you around 25% of your zinc RDA, and because this is natural organic zinc in a wholefood matrix, that is to say, not a synthetic inorganic zinc compound in a capsule, the bioavailability of the zinc is much higher.
These seeds are a protein rich superfood.
Styrian pumpkin seeds are an exceptional treasure trove of digestible plant protein and contain slightly higher amino acid concentrations that the commercial Chinese seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a complete protein in themselves and contain more protein than steak per 100g, especially true when well chewed, soaked Styrian seeds are concerned, Though they are a complete protein, pumpkin seeds are notable for 3 amino acids in particular. First, is lysine, which is so often one of the limiting proteins in many plant-based diets. In fact, as a rule of thumb, the lysine content is often more important than the total protein content of plant food: if you are getting enough dietary lysine you will almost certainly be getting enough of the 8 other essential amino acids. The second amino acid, and the one that pumpkin seeds are especially associated with is tryptophan. As a precursor of serotonin, tryptophan can help to alleviate depression, irritability, and anxiety, and help calm restlessness and ward away insomnia. Thirdly, pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tyrosine (considered a “non essential” amino) which is a precursor of the other feel good endogenous chemical dopamine, which helps to address issues of listlessness, motivation, and depression, and boost feelings of happiness and contentment.
Ok, amazing, but how many pumpkin seeds do I need to consume?
For a substantial nutritional power-up and to provide a therapeutic dose of the acclaimed phytonutrients in the seed (spermidine, beta-Sitosterol, vitamin E, zinc etc) you should aim to eat 20-50g of the soaked seeds per day, either eaten as is, as a snack, (plain or seasoned as you prefer), blended into a smoothie, or made into a milk. Do this every day. Do not stop; your whole body will benefit profoundly from the treasure trove of critical nutrients contained in every single seed.
For the highest quality organic certified, raw, sproutable Styrian Pumpkin seeds, see here.