Is Pumpkin Seed Oil The New Coconut Oil? We Asked RDs to Weigh In
It's officially the season of all things pumpkin—pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, and...pumpkin seed oil? While it's not only fall fare, pumpkin seed oil deserves to be on your radar for both its flavor and nutritional benefits. Made from the seeds of a specific breed of pumpkin found in Austria, the Styrian pumpkin, pumpkin seed oil is dark green, with a toasty, nutty flavor.
What are the health benefits of pumpkin seed oil?
Pumpkin seed oil is considered an "Austrian secret" and has been used in the country for traditional medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Starting with the basics, pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E. "These are thought to help reduce inflammation and fight free radical cell damage," says Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., mbg Collective member and author of the upcoming The Little Book of Game Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety.
Beyond that, the oil itself appears to have some worthwhile health benefits. "In a 2015 study in which saturated fat was replaced with pumpkin seed oil, improvement was noted in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis development," notes Cording. It's also been studied for its role as a potential treatment for hair loss in men: A small 2014 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that a pumpkin seed oil capsule was associated with increased hair growth when compared to a placebo.
The specific profile of its fat comes with its own benefits. "Oils such as pumpkin seed oil with a desirable fatty acid profile of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may be beneficial for inflammation, heart health, and maintaining a healthy weight," says Samantha Voor, M.S., RDN, and founder of Fresh Plates Nutrition.
Simply consuming more healthy fats has its own benefits, according to Cording. "Having adequate dietary fat is essential for normal body functioning such as hormone production, body temperature regulation, and cognitive function, just to name a few," she says.
How should you use pumpkin seed oil?
Pumpkin seed oil has an intensely nutty flavor with hints of butter and is stronger than walnut or hazelnut oil. That nuttiness plays well with other seasonal staples. "It tastes amazing in a dressing tossed with apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes," says Voor. "Drizzle this over a fall-inspired salad, toss with roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or carrots, or pour over a cozy bowl of butternut squash soup for a perfect fall explosion of flavors."
Because of its high levels of polyunsaturated fat, pumpkin seed oil has a smoke point of 320 degrees, which means it shouldn't be used in cooking, as that will damage and oxidize the oil. "I tend to recommend using it more as a salad dressing or something used to top off a dish, like drizzling on soup or hummus, since it is best used at low temperatures," says Cording. She has a great hack, though, for enjoying the flavor in a cooked dish: "Try adding it at the very end," she says. "For example, roast your veggies in avocado oil or olive oil and then add the pumpkin seed oil when you take it out of the oven."
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