Pumpkins are a staple of autumn. In addition to their use as Halloween decorations, they're commonly used in desserts, lattes and candles. They have a unique flavor and a velvety consistency and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
However, neither pumpkin "guts" nor shells need to be eaten to obtain these benefits. In fact, pumpkin seeds alone are nutrient-rich.
Pumpkin seeds can contain:
- Vitamins A, B2, C, E and K
The benefits of pumpkin seeds
Both raw and roasted pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene. Antioxidants inhibit oxidative stress and prevent the action of free radicals, which are molecules that play a role in developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Regularly consuming pumpkin seeds may provide the following health benefits:
- Increased sperm production and fertility
- Improved sleep
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Reduced risk of high blood pressure, high blood sugar and heart disease
- Relief of urinary conditions such as overactive bladder and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which causes bladder problems
- Enhanced digestive health
Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients, which indicates their potential effects on men's sexual health.
"Since pumpkin seeds are so nutrient-dense, they can also help with supporting overall sexual health, including healthy testosterone levels and prostate health," said Justin Houman, M.D., a reproductive urologist and men's health specialist at Tower Urology in Los Angeles and the medical director for Bastion Health, an app-based telehealth platform for men.
However, they are high in fiber, so too many can cause digestive problems such as bloating or constipation. Therefore, adding just a handful of them to a meal or eating them as a snack is recommended.
The relationship between pumpkin seeds and erectile function
A 2021 research study in the Journal of Food Biochemistry examined the potential effects of raw and roasted pumpkin seeds on male rats' erectile function. The researchers studied male rats after supplementing their basal diets—diets with a caloric value equal to basal heat production and essential nutrients—with raw and roasted pumpkin seeds.
The rats were separated into groups for evaluation. Some rats received no pumpkin seeds. Some were supplemented with 5 percent raw pumpkin seeds and others with 10 percent raw seeds. Still others were supplemented with 5 percent roasted seeds, and a last group with 10 percent roasted seeds.
The researchers evaluated several biochemical parameters within each male rat to determine the effectiveness of pumpkin seed-infused diets to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). Aside from biochemical parameters, the researchers examined each rat's nitric oxide levels and malondialdehyde (MDA) compounds.
"In addition to looking at nitric oxide levels, the study looked at other markers that would include neurotransmitter compounds and compounds that play roles in energy levels and immune system function," said Tom Ingegno, D.A.C.M., an acupuncturist and the owner of Charm City Integrative Health in Baltimore, in an email conversation.
The research indicated that incorporating raw and roasted pumpkin seeds into a male rat's diet improved the biochemical parameters and addressed issues that contribute to ED. Roasted seeds showed the most benefits, especially in the rats that were supplemented at 10 percent. Heating the seeds may enhance their antioxidant activity and enzymes, according to the researchers.
"Roasted pumpkin seeds also reduced the oxidative stress parameters in rats' penile tissues when compared to raw pumpkin seeds," the authors wrote.
The benefits of pumpkin seeds for ED
Since this study examined male rats, it's difficult to understand the true impact these seeds can have on male humans. While rats are common test subjects, the effects of the roasted seeds may vary in people. Additional research is needed to determine the quantity of raw and roasted pumpkin seeds that would be most beneficial for men to see improvements in erectile function.
"This [study] can potentially help men who are experiencing mild erectile dysfunction and are lacking in the nutrients that pumpkin seeds carry," Houman explained. "Although this research is exciting, most men won't benefit significantly from eating more pumpkin seeds."
The study does offer insight into the potential benefits roasted pumpkin seeds can provide for erectile function, such as increased nitric oxide levels.
"[Nitric oxide] is one of the compounds that cause the blood vessels to dilate," Ingegno said. "Other compounds this study looked at are known to reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties. Functionally, in this case, they further allow for good blood flow."