Packed with antioxidants, four forms of vitamin E and antioxidant minerals zinc and manganese, pumpkin seeds have significant health benefits for runners. Just one handful (32g) of pumpkin seeds will be enough to see these great benefits:
Boost your energy
For runners low in energy pumpkin seeds are a great way to boost your intake of magnesium which is important for energy production. One handful or ¼ of a cup (32g) of pumpkin seeds contains 190mg of magnesium, over half your recommended daily amount (RDA). Magnesium is often low in athletes and requirements can be high, particularly if you are prone to sweating. If you’re fond of nut butters, then why not switch to pumpkin seed butter? One tablespoon will provide you with 27 per cent of your RDA of magnesium, 16 per cent of your iron RDA, 16 per cent of your Vitamin E RDA and a quarter of your daily phosphorous needs. Pumpkin seeds also contain leucine, an amino acid that can help promote fat oxidation and endurance – which will come in handy if you are looking to increase your mileage.
Boost your immunity
Pumpkin seeds are a winner when it comes to your immunity too. Studies have found that while moderate excerise stimulates the immunse system, long distances temporarily weakens it. It is important then for long distance runners to take precautions to ensure their immune system is strong. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, iron and protein, each of which play major role in maintaining the immune system. One handful (32g) contains 9g protein. They’re also useful vegetarian source of iron, which helps combat fatigue and anaemia. Pumpkin seeds are also a useful source of omega 3 fatty acids, providing additional anti-inflammatory benefits.
A bonus for your blood
In addition to the wide range of nutrients in pumpkin seeds they are also rich in phytosterols. These compounds, found in plants, have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol. When present in the diet in sufficient amounts they have been shown to help lower blood levels of cholesterol, improve lipid profile and cardiovascular health. Being a good source of magnesium and potassium they may also be useful for lowering high blood pressure.
For most benefits eat pumpkin seeds raw. If you like them toasted do this yourself to prevent damaging the vulnerable essential fats. Simply place them on a baking tray and toast for 15 minutes at 160C. Pumpkin seeds are delicious tossed into cooked dishes or salads. Sprinkle them over muesli or porridge or make them into a granola-style cereal. They can be used in homemade protein bars, vegetarian burgers and ground up to make a pesto. Use the oil cold – do not cook with it, as it is vulnerable to heat damage. Try using it in salad dressings or drizzle into smoothies. Pumpkin seed butter can be spread on oat cakes for a quick and healthy snack.
To get you started on incoporating pumpkin seeds into your diet, try this recipe for Fettuccine with Cherry Tomatoes and Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
300g wholemeal fettuccine (or spaghetti)
1tbsp coconut butter or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 shallot, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of ½ lemon
Black pepper to taste
Pumpkin seed pesto
1 garlic clove chopped
Pinch of sea salt
30g basil leaves
30g pumpkin seeds
75ml flaxseed oil
15g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Make the pesto by blending all the ingredients together in a food processor to form a smooth paste. Add a little more oil if needed.
2. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente, about seven or eight minutes. Drain.
3. Heat a frying pan and add the oil. Sauté the garlic, onion and lemon zest and cook for two or three minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add to the pasta with the lemon juice, pesto and toss thoroughly. Season with black pepper to taste.