Healthy Cooking

Olive Oil Isn’t the Only Heart-Healthy Pantry Staple—Pumpkin Seed Oil Boosts Cardiovascular Health, Too

Emily Laurence

Photo: Stocksy/Miquel Llonch

When it comes to cooking oils, olive oil is perhaps the most widely beloved in the U.S. for its heart-healthy benefits, accessibility, and versatility. But it’s certainly not the only one that’s good for cardiovascular health. Pumpkin seed oil is an oft-overlooked, underutilized oil that can also benefit cardiovascular health.

Pumpkin seed oil is made from cold-pressed pumpkin seeds and originated from Mexico, where pumpkins grow in abundance. Traditionally known as “the green gold,” it’s been used in cooking since the 18th century.  Since it is a specialty oil, pumpkin seed oil does tend to cost more than some other types of oil. But the pumpkin seed oil benefits make it a splurge that can be well worth it. Below is a run-down of its nutritional profile for a one tablespoon serving:

Calories: 130 kcals
Protein: 0 grams
Total fats: 14 grams
Unsaturated fats: 1.5 grams
Monosaturated fats: 6 grams
Polyunsaturated fats: 7.5 grams

The shortlist may look underwhelming, but the benefits shouldn’t be underestimated. Monosaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are both important nutrients everyone needs that benefit the body in a variety of ways. Below, registered dietitian Andrea Mathis, RD, explains just why the fats in pumpkin seed oil are so healthy and also gives tips on how to use pumpkin seed oil in your cooking.

5 pumpkin seed oil benefits, according to a registered dietitian

1. It’s good for your heart

Mathis explains that pumpkin seed oil benefits the heart the same way olive oil does. Both contain the same type of healthy fats linked to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease.  “If you like cooking with olive oil for its heart health benefits, you can switch it up with pumpkin oil from time to time and still get these same benefits,” she says.

2. Consuming pumpkin seed oil could boost your mood

“I’ve been reading a lot about the brain benefits of pumpkin seed oil, specifically how it is linked to helping with anxiety and depression,” Mathis says. One study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that children experiencing depression who consumed pumpkin seeds found it helped their mood. More scientific research needs to be done in this area to specifically connect pumpkin seed oil with these mood-boosting benefits (and to know if they’re effective on adults, too), but Mathis says the reason for the connection likely is because of the healthy fats, which are found in both the seeds in their whole form and the pumpkin seed oil.

3. It’s anti-inflammatory

Another perk of consuming pumpkin seed oil, Mathis says, is that it can help protect against chronic inflammation. Left untreated, inflammation can lead to many debilitating health problems, including cancer or cognitive decline. “Pumpkin seed oil contains the antioxidants carotenoids and vitamin E, and antioxidants play a role in lowering inflammation,” she says. However, it should be noted that there are only trace amounts of these nutrients in the oil. So if you’re primarily interested in fighting inflammation, you might opt for the seeds instead as they contain higher amounts of these antioxidants.

4. Pumpkin seed oil is good for skin

Besides using pumpkin seed oil in the kitchen, it’s also incorporated into beauty products, too. Using it topically helps moisturize skin and could even help prevent acne. Kerrilynn Pamer, the founder of CAP Beauty, previously told Well+Good that the fatty acids in pumpkin seed oil hydrate the skin. “It also encourages cell turnover and helps maintain collagen levels, keeping skin firm and youthful,” she says.

5. It has trace amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium

In addition to vitamin E, Mathis says pumpkin seed oil contains small amounts of other nutrients, including potassium, calcium, zinc, and magnesium—a byproduct from the pumpkin seeds themselves. While the amounts of these nutrients isn’t high enough to make pumpkin seed oil a go-to source for them, it’s certainly a bonus; every little bit helps!

There’s also very minimal risk for any adverse reactions—Mathis says she doesn’t know of any to be aware of. If you have any underlying medical conditions or are on any medication, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before trying a new functional food or supplement, including pumpkin seed oil.

How to use pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin seed oil has a smoke point of 320°F, which means it’s best used as a finishing oil. “I wouldn’t use it the way you would use canola oil, for example,” Mathis says. “But if you use it to top off your food with, you’re still getting its rich flavor and also the benefits.”

She says that adding pumpkin seed oil on top of fish, roasted vegetables, soups, or pasta are all ways to experiment with pumpkin seed oil. You can also use it as a salad dressing, infusing it with the herbs and spices of your choice. In terms of the best way to store pumpkin seed oil, it’s best kept in a sealed bottle (so no air can enter it) and stored in a dark place since sunlight can alter the oil’s properties. When stored correctly, it can last about two years.

Since pumpkin seed oil is so beneficial for heart health, it’s also available to buy in supplement form, as either a tincture or capsule. Dosage for these products ranges from 100 milligrams to 2,000 milligrams. To compare, one tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil equals 1,000 milligrams of pumpkin seed oil.

“The healthy fats in pumpkin seed oil are what make it so beneficial,” Mathis says. “Olive oil is full of healthy fats too, but sometimes it’s nice to use a different oil to change the flavor profile of what you’re making. Pumpkin seed oil will do that and still deliver on many of the same benefits.” As she explains, they’re both certainly worth a place in your pantry.

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