5 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Pumpkin Seed Oil & How To Use It
Pumpkin may be a favorite fall flavor, but in oil form, its uses and benefits go far beyond Thanksgiving pie. This versatile oil appears in everything from cooking to beauty products, and its health perks may include cardiovascular support, as well as skin hydration, hormone balancing, and more.
Here's what to know about the top science-backed benefits of pumpkin seed oil, and how to get the most out of the ingredient.
What is pumpkin seed oil?
Similar to olive oil, it has a relatively low smoke point—only 320 degrees Fahrenheit. When heated beyond this temperature, the oil begins to burn and release pro-inflammatory free radicals. This means it isn't ideal for high-heat cooking. It is, however, excellent in marinades and drizzled over roasted vegetables.
Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN, author of Eating From Our Roots, shares a myriad of options for using pumpkin seed oil in the kitchen on the mindbodygreen podcast: "One of my friends takes a full-fat yogurt and pours pumpkin seed oil over it as a dessert. It's delicious." It's a wonderful finishing oil for salads, as well, she says. Lipid researcher Kevin C. Maki, Ph.D., CLS, adds that pumpkin seed oil can be drizzled into smoothies or soups, used in slaws, or blended into dips.
In addition to its uses in the kitchen, pumpkin seed oil can also be consumed as a supplement. The benefits of pumpkin seed oil for the skin and hair have been embraced by the beauty industry, making it an up-and-coming mainstay in masks, serums, and other beauty products.
- Calories: 130kcal
- Fat: 13g
- Saturated fat: 1.5g
- Monounsaturated fat: 6g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 7.5g
Pumpkin seed oil is mostly composed of unsaturated fatty acids—mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) but also some monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)—which make up around 80% of the oil3. The other 20% comes from saturated fat.
The oil is highest in linoleic acid (53.19%–53.27%), followed by oleic (27.52%–27.59%) and palmitic (11.90%–11.99%) acids, though its exact fatty acid profile depends on where and how the pumpkins were grown4.
The vitamin E content of the oil also depends on the content of the seeds and can vary greatly5. Pumpkin seed oil is also rich in carotenes with the majority being lutein followed by beta-carotene.
Health benefits of pumpkin seed oil.
Pumpkin seed oil can offer a variety of health benefits, thanks in part to its antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E. Here are the main ones that science has explored:
It may be beneficial for women's hormonal health.
Ali Miller, R.D., L.D., CDE, integrative dietitian and author of The Anti-Anxiety Diet, explains that pumpkin seed oil can be beneficial for hormonal health because of the presence of multiple omega-3 fatty acids. "It is a good choice for hormone balance as it has omegas in the form of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), as well as phytoestrogens." She notes that these serve as a tool in hormone transition during menopause or estrogen dips, making pumpkin seed oil or supplements a good choice for women nearing or in that transition.
It has perks for men's health, too.
It's nourishing for skin and hair.
The fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants in pumpkin seed oil make it a nourishing treatment for skin and hair.
"Pumpkin seed oil has squalene, which has been used in cosmetics for skin and hair," adds Miller. There's also some preclinical8 and clinical research9 to show that pumpkin seed oil can help aid in hair growth. To take advantage of these properties, beauty insiders recommend adding three to five drops of the oil to your shampoo.
It may reduce inflammation and free radicals.
It may support healthy cholesterol levels.
Finally, eating the oil in moderation can help support healthy cholesterol, particularly when you swap it in for saturated fats like butter.
"Pumpkin seed oil is fairly high in linoleic acid (an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid) and plant sterols. Both are helpful for lowering levels of LDL cholesterol," explains Maki.
One 2015 study found that swapping saturated fat for pumpkin seed oil12 resulted in an improvement in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (which is often triggered by high cholesterol) and atherosclerosis (the thickening or hardening of the arteries due to cholesterol buildup).
The downsides and side effects of pumpkin seed oil.
Both Maki and Miller note that pumpkin seed oil has relatively few downsides or side effects, particularly for those who eat it in moderation.
"I would expect the tolerability profile to be similar to that of other oils that contain predominantly unsaturated fatty acids, like corn oil and soybean oil," says Maki. He adds, "In general, these are well tolerated with few, if any, side effects when consumed in reasonable quantities."
When eating pumpkin seed oil, it's best to follow the same guidelines that you would when incorporating any type of oil into your diet. Aim to consume whole food sources of fat first (avocados, nuts, and seeds are all great options) and use oil occasionally and sparingly. (i.e., lightly sear your food in a thin coat of oil instead of deep frying it).
Pumpkin seed oil vs. other oils.
How does pumpkin seed oil compare to other oils? Here's a look at a few popular alternatives.
Pumpkin seed oil vs. olive oil
Pumpkin seed oil and olive oil have similar uses in the kitchen, with the main difference being pumpkin seed oil's nutty taste versus olive oil's more fruity flavor.
"Both are nutritive, containing essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Also, both are cold-pressed, low-heat-appropriate fats that can be used in similar ways," Miller explains. "However, pumpkin seed oil should be kept at an even lower temperature when compared to olive oil."
That's because pumpkin seed oil's smoke point is 320 degrees Fahrenheit; while olive oil's is 350 degrees (for extra-virgin) or 420 degrees (for regular).
Pumpkin seed oil vs. canola oil
Popular for frying because of its high smoke point (400 degrees), canola oil tends to be a highly processed oil, and it has less nutritional value compared to pumpkin seed oil.
Pumpkin seed oil vs. coconut oil
Coconut oil has a higher smoke point (350 to 450 degrees) than pumpkin seed oil. However, it is high in saturated fat, which may be a concern to some.
Miller adds that coconut oil does have higher levels of some beneficial compounds than pumpkin seed oil does, however, such as caprylic acid, which has antifungal13 and anti-inflammatory14 properties.
Coconut oil is popular among those who follow the keto diet, but Miller adds that pumpkin seed oil is keto-friendly too. "Pumpkin seed oil is a nutritive keto-friendly oil providing a nice profile of nourishing essential fatty acids rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytocompounds," she says.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much pumpkin seed oil should I take per day?
Maki explains, "It would be reasonable to consume up to about 2 tablespoons (about 28g) per day as part of a healthy dietary pattern."
Is pumpkin seed oil healthy for the hair and skin?
Miller notes that pumpkin seed oil is beneficial for skin and hair because of its fat-soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and squalene. All help to retain moisture in the skin and hair, as well as protect them from the elements.
Pumpkin seed oil has plenty of healthy properties, and many people enjoy its nutty taste and culinary uses, as well as beauty and skin care possibilities. To dive deeper into pumpkin seed oil and other minimally processed alternatives, explore our resources on oils that are beneficial for health and cooking—as well as those that aren't.
Heather Bien is a freelance writer currently living in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has written for Apartment Therapy, MyDomaine, HelloGiggles, StyleBlueprint, The Knot, The Everygirl, and other lifestyle websites. She writes about home and lifestyle, personal development, relationships, and more.