Pumpkin Power

You don’t have to wait for Halloween to enjoy the newest protein in town.

Picking a pumpkin can be one of the best things about fall—and the flesh of this squash can be delicious and vitamin-packed. But the most nutrient-dense part of the plant is actually its seeds. These petite pepitas are quickly becoming the newest superfood and trendy protein source—whether ground up in protein powders and seed butters or used in granola bars and chips.

These seeds are packed with high-quality protein. “They offer 18 essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for healthy muscle and tissue repair in our body,” says dietitian Megan Roosevelt, founder of Healthy Grocery Girl.

Though pumpkin seeds can be a good protein choice for vegans, omnivores can enjoy their benefits too. Roosevelt notes that replacing some animal proteins with plant proteins like pumpkin seeds can help dial down chronic inflammation in the body.

One thing to keep in mind: pumpkin seeds are high in calories and fat, so you can’t eat them with abandon. One-quarter cup of the kernels has 169 calories and 15 grams of fat; whole roasted seeds may be a better option if you’re watching your weight, as these contain only 71 calories and three grams of fat per quarter cup.

Try these six pumpkin products to pack in the pepitas:

Omega Nutrition Organic Pumpkin Protein Powder is made of only ground pumpkin seeds—so it’s gluten-, soy-, and dairy-free—and offers an impressive 9.5 grams of protein per scoop, plus 20 percent of your daily value for iron. ($17.95)

Omega Nutrition Organic Pumpkin Seed Butter makes a great peanut butter alternative. This one contains no sugars or additives, just pumpkin seeds and oil and salt for three grams of protein per tablespoon. Don’t be put off by the greenish-brown color—it’s delicious. ($10.05)

Eden Foods Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, tossed in soy sauce, garlic, and cayenne, add a zesty spin but leave out the high sodium of many snacks. One-quarter cup contains an impressive five grams of fiber. ($2.87)

Go Raw Pumpkin Super Chips cram in pure ingredients like sprouted pumpkin and flax seeds, dates, agave, and salt in a sweet-crunchy snack with six grams of protein per serving. ($5.49)

Go Raw Live Pumpkin Bar contains just 60 calories and is low in sugar, making it the ideal weight-conscious bite between meals. ($1.19)

Live Smart Raw Bar, Cranberry Pumpkin Seed includes pumpkin and sunflower seeds, cranberries, and dates for seven grams of protein. One bar contains almost 20 percent of the daily value for calcium and is a good source of iron. ($29.99 for a box of 12)

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