Welcome to our newest Blog feature! The Ingredient Spotlight will be taking a deep dive into all the beautiful ingredients that go into our bars and bites.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a versatile and nutrient-rich ingredient that have been enjoyed by humans for centuries. Originating from the Americas, these seeds have gained popularity worldwide due to their delicious taste and exceptional health benefits. As one of the ingredients in all our Weka Bars, we want to delve a little deeper into the origin and production of pumpkin seeds and shed light on their remarkable nutritional properties.
Origin and Production
Pumpkin seeds have a rich history and trace their origins back to the Americas, where they were cultivated and consumed by Native American tribes. Over time, their cultivation spread to Europe and other regions of the world. Today, the main producers of pumpkin seeds include the United States, Mexico, China, India, and Eastern Europe, with the most commonly used type of pumpkin being the Styrian pumpkin.
After pumpkins are harvested for their seeds, the leftover flesh can be used in various ways to minimise waste. Pumpkin flesh is often used to produce supermarket products such as soups, pies, or canned purees. Some farmers also use leftover pumpkin flesh as animal feed or compost it to enrich the soil, closing the sustainability loop.
After being extracted from the whole pumpkin, the seeds – which don’t yet look like the ones you buy at the shop – are typically washed to remove any remaining pulp or residue. They are then dried to ensure a low moisture content which is necessary to preserve them and extend shelf life. Industrial-scale shelling machines are used to remove the hard outer shell from the pumpkin seeds – this is where your familiar green seed emerges! These machines apply pressure or use mechanical force to crack the shells without damaging the seed inside. The shells are separated from the seeds using methods like air separation or sieving.
Doing this manually or at home can be extremely time-consuming, so many home gardeners choose to eat the whole seed including the husk, which is rich in fiber. Alternatively, the Lady Godiva pumpkin is known for its naked seeds that have no or only very thin husks, making it a good choice for home pumpkin seed production.
When it comes to nutrition, pumpkin seeds pack a nutritional punch and are a great addition to a healthy diet. They are rich in essential nutrients, including healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, and vitamin K. On top of that, they contain antioxidants such as vitamin E and carotenoids, which help protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation.
Nutrients per 28g serving
(~¼ cup or 4 tbsp)*
Calories | 151
Fat | 13g
Protein | 8g
Dietary Fiber | 2.7g
Magnesium | 37% of the Daily Value (DV)
Zinc | 17% of the DV
Iron | 23% of the DV
Vitamin K | 18% of the DV
There is a host of notable health benefits connected to the pumpkin seed’s impressive nutrient profile. Their high magnesium content contributes to bone health, while zinc supports a healthy immune system and wound healing. The seeds also contain phytosterols, which have been linked to reduced cholesterol levels, and tryptophan, an amino acid involved in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite. Pretty cool right?
Toasted to perfection
At the Weka Nest we roast our pumpkin seeds for creating our bars and bites, which not only makes them taste more delicious, but also improves the bioavailability of some of their nutrients. Have you ever wondered why toasted nuts and seeds smell so delicious?! It’s your body’s own clever way to tell you that this cooked version is good for you. Yes, there is a place for raw seeds too, but roasting does have many beneficial effects, and the body intuitively knows this.
Improved digestibility: Roasting seeds helps break down complex carbohydrates and proteins, making them easier to digest. This improved digestibility can enhance the bioavailability of nutrients by allowing the body to absorb them more effectively.
Increased nutrient concentration: Roasting can cause the moisture content of pumpkin seeds to decrease, resulting in a higher concentration of nutrients per unit weight. This higher concentration can potentially increase the bioavailability of nutrients when consumed.
Enhanced mineral availability: Roasting can positively affect the availability of certain minerals in pumpkin seeds. For example, the heat from roasting can help release and make zinc more bioavailable. Zinc is an essential mineral involved in various physiological processes, such as immune function and enzyme activity.
Preservation of heat-stable nutrients: While roasting can cause some loss of heat-sensitive vitamins (such as vitamin C and B vitamins), it helps preserve other heat-stable nutrients. Pumpkin seeds are particularly rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, which are not significantly affected by roasting.
To wrap it all up
Pumpkin seeds are not only extremely tasty, but also a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with essential nutrients, they have numerous health benefits, including supporting bone health, boosting immune function, improving heart health, and aiding digestion. So it’s definitely a good idea to add some of these green morsels of goodness to your diet, whether it be by sprinkling them over salad or scrambled eggs, or by munching a Weka Bar or two 😉.
* Note: The nutritional information provided in the table is approximate and may vary depending on the brand and specific preparation methods. It’s always a good idea to check the label for precise nutritional information.