What happens if you eat the whole pumpkin seed?

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are the edible seeds of a pumpkin. They are nutrient-dense, full of fiber and healthy fats, and make for a tasty snack. But what happens if you eat the whole pumpkin seed, shell and all? Let’s take a look.

Can you eat the whole pumpkin seed?

Yes, you can eat the entire pumpkin seed, shell and all. The shell is entirely edible and safe to consume. In fact, the shell contains most of the fiber and many nutrients found in the seed.

However, the shell is quite hard and crunchy. Some find it unpalatable to eat the entire seed raw. The shell can be softened by roasting or boiling the seeds before eating them whole.

Nutritional content

Here is the nutrient breakdown for 1 ounce (28 grams) of whole roasted pumpkin seeds, shells included (1):

  • Calories: 151
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Vitamin K: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Phosphorus: 33% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 37% of the DV
  • Manganese: 42% of the DV
  • Iron: 20% of the DV
  • Zinc: 14% of the DV
  • Copper: 19% of the DV

As you can see, pumpkin seeds are loaded with important micronutrients like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and copper. They also contain some protein and healthy unsaturated fats.

The shell itself is rich in fiber, providing 18–20% of the DV per ounce (28 grams) (2). Fiber helps promote fullness, gut health, and healthy cholesterol levels.

Benefits of eating the shell

Here are some of the top benefits you get from eating the edible pumpkin seed shell:

  • More fiber. The shell provides the majority of the fiber found in pumpkin seeds.
  • More nutrients. The shell contains many important nutrients, like magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
  • Gut health. The fiber in the shell acts as a prebiotic, feeding healthy gut bacteria.
  • Satiety. The fiber promotes fullness and helps curb appetite.
  • Blood sugar control. The shell’s fiber content helps slow the absorption of sugars from meals.
  • Cholesterol lowering. Soluble fiber in the shell can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Laxative effect. The high fiber content acts as a natural laxative for some people.

Therefore, eating the shell boosts the nutrient and fiber content of the pumpkin seed significantly. This leads to benefits like improved gut health, appetite control, and heart health.

Potential downsides

Eating the whole pumpkin seed shell is generally safe. However, some potential downsides include:

  • Digestive issues. Too much fiber at once may cause gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea in sensitive people.
  • Constipation. The shells can potentially cause constipation if you don’t drink enough fluids.
  • Poor nutrient absorption. The phytic acid in shells may somewhat inhibit mineral absorption.
  • Difficulty chewing. The shells can be quite hard and difficult to chew, especially for those with dental issues.

To reduce digestive side effects, make sure to drink plenty of water and ramp up your fiber intake gradually. Soaking, sprouting, or roasting the seeds can help reduce the phytic acid content.

How many seeds can you eat?

There is no set limit for how many whole pumpkin seeds you can eat in a day. However, moderation is key, especially when getting used to the extra fiber.

Here are some general tips for integrating whole pumpkin seeds into your diet:

  • Start with 1–2 ounces (28–56 grams) at a time.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Chew the seeds thoroughly before swallowing.
  • Look for roasted or softened shells if the raw ones are too hard.
  • Gradually increase your intake as your body adjusts to the extra fiber.
  • Pay attention to your digestion. Reduce your intake if you experience discomfort.
  • Most healthy adults can eventually tolerate up to 4–8 ounces (112–224 grams) per day.

Consuming a few handfuls of whole pumpkin seeds a few times a week is a healthy, safe amount for most people. Just make sure to drink enough water and adjust your intake based on how your body responds.

Tips for eating whole pumpkin seeds

Here are some tips to enjoy whole pumpkin seeds:

  • Roast them. Roasted at low heat for 15–20 minutes. This helps softens the shell.
  • Boil them. Boiling for 2–5 minutes until the shell cracks can also help soften it.
  • Soak them. Soaking in water overnight before roasting or boiling softens the shell too.
  • Crack the shell first. You can crack the shell with your teeth, then eat the seed inside.
  • Grind them. Add whole seeds to a food processor. Pulse to grind into pumpkin seed butter.
  • Sprinkle on dishes. Add whole seeds to salads, oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods, etc.

Processing the seeds by roasting, boiling, grinding, or soaking makes the shells much easier to chew and digest. But simply chewing well before swallowing is fine too.

Whole vs de-shelled

Some key differences between whole pumpkin seeds and those with the shells removed include:

Whole seeds De-shelled seeds
Higher in fiber Lower in fiber
Provide more magnesium, zinc, manganese Lower in some minerals
Crunchier texture Softer texture
Need more chewing Easier to chew
More natural laxative effect Less laxative effect
Higher phytic acid content Lower phytic acid

As you can see, the shell provides extra nutrition and a crunchier mouthfeel, while de-shelled seeds are a bit softer and easier to eat. Choose based on your own needs and preferences.

Healthy ways to eat pumpkin seeds

Here are some healthy and creative ways to enjoy whole pumpkin seeds:

  • Pumpkin seed pesto. Blend roasted seeds, garlic, olive oil, parsley, and Parmesan cheese for a savory pesto.
  • Pumpkin seed granola. Toss roasted seeds with oats, nuts, coconut flakes, and maple syrup and bake.
  • Pumpkin yogurt bowl. Top Greek yogurt with seeds, fresh fruit, and pumpkin pie spice.
  • Crunchy pumpkin seed bars. Make chewy granola bars with whole pumpkin seeds, oats, almond butter, and dried fruit.
  • Pumpkin trail mix. Combine roasted seeds with nuts, chopped fruit, coconut chips, and dark chocolate.
  • Pumpkin seed crusted fish. For a nut-free alternative, coat fish fillets with ground pumpkin seeds before baking.

Pumpkin seeds pair well with both sweet and savory ingredients. Get creative and add them to breakfasts, snacks, salads, bakes goods, and main courses.

Are there any major side effects?

For most healthy people, eating the whole pumpkin seed is safe and unlikely to cause serious side effects. However, some people may experience (3):

  • Digestive issues. As mentioned, too much fiber at once can provoke gas, diarrhea, and discomfort in sensitive individuals. Introduce seeds slowly.
  • Choking hazard. Make sure to chew the hard shells thoroughly to prevent choking. Avoid giving whole seeds to young children.
  • Allergic reactions. Pumpkin seeds may trigger allergic reactions in those with food allergies. Discontinue use if any symptoms appear.
  • Drug interactions. Theoretically, seeds could interact with lithium, diabetes medications, blood thinners, and diuretics, but this is unproven.
  • Weight gain. Be mindful of portion sizes, as pumpkin seeds are fairly high in calories.

In most cases, negative effects can be avoided by drinking enough fluids, chewing properly, and adjusting your intake to tolerate the extra fiber. Speak to your healthcare provider if any worrisome symptoms occur.

Special precautions

Here are some special precautions to keep in mind (4):

  • Introduce pumpkin seeds into your diet gradually to prevent digestive issues.
  • Drink plenty of water when eating the shells to help move fiber through the body.
  • Chew the seeds extremely well before swallowing to prevent choking.
  • Watch your total dietary fiber intake if also taking supplements or eating other high fiber foods.
  • See a dentist if you have dental issues that make chewing difficult.
  • Monitor blood sugar levels carefully if you have diabetes, as fiber affects absorption.
  • Consult your doctor if you take medications that may interact with pumpkin seeds.

As long as you pay attention to your body, chew thoroughly, and drink enough liquids, pumpkin seed shells are perfectly safe to eat for most people.

Bottom line

You can safely eat the entire pumpkin seed, shell and all. The shell provides a major source of fiber and nutrients. Make sure to introduce pumpkin seeds gradually, chew very well, and drink plenty of fluids to minimize digestive discomfort.

So don’t waste the shells—enjoy the delicious seeds whole and reap the many nutritional rewards!

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