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Pumpkin Seeds vs. Sunflower Seeds — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on June 30, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan Article author photo Astghik Baghinyan
Pumpkin seed
vs
Sunflower seed

Summary

Sunflower seeds provide slightly more calories, protein, and especially higher amounts of fats. Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, contain over 2 times more carbohydrates.

Sunflower seeds are much richer in vitamins than pumpkin seeds; they are especially a great source of vitamin E, folate, and B-complex vitamins that include vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6.

Sunflower seeds provide around 2 times more copper, 4 times more manganese, and 7 times more phosphorus. Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, are slightly higher in potassium, zinc, and choline.

Both of these seeds have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, blood glucose levels, and cancer cells.

Introduction

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are popularly consumed as snacks or are added to meals, often used interchangeably or mixed together. In this article, we will look at these two seeds individually and compare their nutritional content and impact on health to try and conclude which seed is the best choice.

Classification

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepita, are the edible seeds of certain cultivars of pumpkins and a few other varieties of squash.

On the other hand, sunflower seeds are, oddly enough, not true seeds but, really, the fruits of sunflowers.

Appearance

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds have distinctly recognizable appearances. Both are flat and oval-shaped, with one sharper tip. However, sunflower seeds are smaller and tend to be thicker.

The two can also be told apart by their colors. Pumpkin seeds are light green, covered by white husks. Husks of sunflower seeds, depending on variety, can be anywhere between white and black.

Taste and Use

Both sunflower and pumpkin seeds have a mild nutty taste and can be roasted or mixed with salt to enhance their flavors.

These seeds can be used as healthy snacks or nutritious additions to various meals.

Varieties

The different types of sunflower seeds are divided based on their use. The two main types of sunflower seeds are oilseed and non-oilseed.

Oilseed sunflower seeds are higher in oils, smaller in size, and are usually used to produce sunflower oil and animal feed. Oilseed sunflowers, in turn, depending on their fat content, are divided into three subtypes: high-oleic, linoleic, and mid-oleic.

The seeds of non-oilseed variety are also known as confections. These are larger in size and are commonly sold as snacks.

The varieties of pumpkin seeds depend on the types of pumpkins in which they grow. Pumpkin seeds grow in specific types of pumpkins called oilseed pumpkins, also known as Styrian pumpkins.

These pumpkins have many cultivars, such as Lady Godiva, Kakai, Snackjack, Austria, Gleisdorfer, and others.

Nutrition

The nutritional information below is presented for whole, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds without salt and dried sunflower seed kernels.

Macronutrients and Calories

One average serving size of sunflower seeds equals one cupful, weighing 46g. Pumpkin seeds have a smaller average serving size, equal to one ounce or 28.35g.

To make the comparison between the two easier, we will be using a 100-gram serving, but again, keep in mind that the average serving size is much smaller than that.

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds have similar nutritional densities, both being high in nutrients. Sunflower seeds contain 4.7% water, while pumpkin seeds consist of 4.5% water.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Carbs +168.8%
Contains more Other +25.4%
Contains more Protein +12%
Contains more Fats +165.3%
Equal in Water - 4.73
19% 19% 54% 5% 4%
Protein: 18.55 g
Fats: 19.4 g
Carbs: 53.75 g
Water: 4.5 g
Other: 3.8 g
21% 51% 20% 5% 3%
Protein: 20.78 g
Fats: 51.46 g
Carbs: 20 g
Water: 4.73 g
Other: 3.03 g
Contains more Carbs +168.8%
Contains more Other +25.4%
Contains more Protein +12%
Contains more Fats +165.3%
Equal in Water - 4.73

Calories

Both seeds are very high-calorie foods; however, sunflower seeds provide more energy. 

A 100g serving of sunflower seeds provides 584 calories, while the same serving of pumpkin seeds contains 446 calories.

Protein 

Sunflower seeds contain slightly more protein than pumpkin seeds. A 100-gram serving of pumpkin seeds contains 19g of protein, while the same serving size of sunflower seeds has 21g of protein. 

The protein found in pumpkin and sunflower seeds is of very high quality, as it includes high levels of all essential amino acids.

Fats

Sunflower seeds also contain higher amounts of fats compared to pumpkin seeds. 

The total lipid fats found in sunflower seeds are over two times higher compared to pumpkin seeds. A 100-gram serving of sunflower seeds contains 51.5 grams of total lipid fat, while the same serving of pumpkin seeds contains only 19.4 grams. 

The fat type breakdown charts of both seeds shown below demonstrate that both seeds are ample in healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, containing smaller amounts of saturated fats.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -17.6%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +207.2%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +161.6%
20% 33% 48%
Saturated Fat: 3.67 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6.032 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 8.844 g
10% 40% 50%
Saturated Fat: 4.455 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 18.528 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 23.137 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -17.6%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +207.2%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +161.6%
  

Carbohydrates

Compared to sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds contain over two times more carbohydrates. 

A 100-gram serving of pumpkin seeds contains 53.8 grams of carbs, while the same serving of sunflower seeds contains only 20 grams.

Most of these carbohydrates are made up of dietary fiber. Consequently, pumpkin seeds are significantly richer in dietary fiber.

The main sugar found in sunflower seeds is sucrose.

Vitamins 

Sunflower seeds win in the vitamin category by a long shot, being significantly richer in most vitamins, as depicted in the graphs below. Please note that the graphs are given for 300-gram serving for better visual comparison, although a single serving of these seeds is usually 30-40 grams.

Sunflower seeds are especially rich in vitamin E, folate, and B-complex vitamins that include vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6.

For example, one cup of sunflower seeds (46g) contains 16.2mg of vitamin E, more than the daily required intake of 15mg. 

Pumpkin seeds contain small amounts of various vitamins as well; however, these amounts are not significant when put in the context of daily recommended intake. 

Both sunflower and pumpkin seeds completely lack vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin A +24%
Contains more Vitamin C +366.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +4252.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +582.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +2814.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +1917.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +3535.1%
Contains more Folate +2422.2%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 4% 0% 0% 1% 9% 12% 6% 4% 9% 7% 0% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 3% 704% 0% 5% 370% 82% 157% 68% 311% 171% 0% 31% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +24%
Contains more Vitamin C +366.7%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +4252.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +582.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +2814.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +1917.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +3535.1%
Contains more Folate +2422.2%

Minerals

Both sunflower and pumpkin seeds are rich in various minerals. 

Sunflower seeds are especially a great source of copper, containing 0.828mg in one cup, which is enough to fill the daily need for the mineral. 

They are also richer in most other minerals compared to pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds provide around 2 times more copper, 4 times more manganese, and 7 times more phosphorus. They are also slightly richer in iron and magnesium as well as contain high amounts of selenium, which pumpkin seeds completely lack. 

Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, are slightly higher in potassium, zinc, and choline.

It is important to note that even though sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are both low in sodium, sunflower seeds are commonly consumed with added salt, significantly increasing their sodium levels. 

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Potassium +42.5%
Contains more Zinc +106%
Contains more Calcium +41.8%
Contains more Iron +58.6%
Contains more Magnesium +24%
Contains more Phosphorus +617.4%
Contains less Sodium -50%
Contains more Copper +160.9%
Contains more Manganese +293.1%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 17% 125% 188% 40% 82% 3% 281% 230% 65% 0%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 24% 197% 233% 283% 57% 2% 137% 600% 255% 290%
Contains more Potassium +42.5%
Contains more Zinc +106%
Contains more Calcium +41.8%
Contains more Iron +58.6%
Contains more Magnesium +24%
Contains more Phosphorus +617.4%
Contains less Sodium -50%
Contains more Copper +160.9%
Contains more Manganese +293.1%

Glycemic Index

A specific number has not yet been calculated for the glycemic indexes of sunflower or pumpkin seeds. However, as these foods are low in sugar and high in dietary fiber and fats, their glycemic indices are assumed to be low.

If you would like to read more about how pumpkin seeds affect blood glucose levels, you can visit our Pumpkin Seed” page.

Acidity

The pH values of both sunflower and pumpkin seeds are slightly acidic or close to neutral, equal to 6.3 (1).

We can also look at the acidity of foods by considering their potential renal acid load or PRAL values. The PRAL value represents how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism.

The PRAL value for sunflower seeds has been calculated to be 11.6, making this food acid-producing. Pumpkin seeds, however, have a PRAL value of -14.3, meaning these seeds are alkaline-forming or alkalizing.

Weight Loss & Diets

Although sunflower and pumpkin seeds are very high in calories, they can still be a part of healthy weight loss diets, providing dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Of these two foods, pumpkin seeds fit better in a low-calorie and low-fat diet. On the other hand, sunflower seeds are the better choice for a low-carb diet. Both seeds fit well in a low glycemic index diet.

The extract of sunflower seed has been studied to have a beneficial effect on body weight, fat mass, and lipid profile, providing evidence for its use as a natural anti-obesity herbal extract (2).

Pumpkin seed oil has been demonstrated to prevent high-fat, diet-induced obesity in animal studies (3).

Sunflower and pumpkin seeds can be used on a keto diet in moderation, as they are low in sugars and high in various healthy nutrients (4).

These seeds are recommended to add to paleo and Mediterranean diets as well.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Now that we know the nutritional compositions of these seeds, we can explore how they positively impact our health.

Cardiovascular Health

Section reviewed by cardiologist Astghik Grigoryan Article author photo Astghik Grigoryan

Sunflower seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. These oils have been found to have a beneficial effect on serum lipids, lowering total cholesterol and low-density cholesterol levels. Additionally, they are rich in vitamin E, which can reduce LDL oxidation and prevent the risk of atherosclerosis (5).

Animal studies have demonstrated sunflower oil’s potential to decrease the risk of arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation, and myocardial ischemia (6).

Pumpkin seeds have also expressed cardioprotective qualities in animal studies, decreasing total and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels (7).

In summary, both pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds offer cardiovascular benefits through their nutrient content, including heart-healthy fats, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds. Incorporating these seeds into a balanced diet can help support a healthy cardiovascular system and reduce cardiovascular risk.

Diabetes

Both sunflower and pumpkin seeds have been studied to have protective qualities during hyperglycemic disorders (8).

Sunflower seeds can be recommended to people with type 2 diabetes as they lower fasting blood glucose levels (9).

Pumpkin seeds have hypoglycemic qualities and can assist in maintaining glycemic control due to certain compounds found in them, such as trigonelline, nicotinic acid, and D-chiro inositol (10).

Cancer

Sunflower seeds have been studied to possess chemoprotective qualities, cytotoxic and antioxidant potential due to a high content of flavonoids and phenolics (11).

Pumpkin seed extract has demonstrated cell growth-inhibiting effects on colon, breast, and prostate cancers (12).

Downsides and Risks

Pro-oxidative Effects

Studies have found that excessive amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids from sunflower oils may have more of a negative impact than a positive one, leading to high oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species, despite the large amounts of antioxidants (7). This shows that sunflower seed consumption should be moderated to achieve beneficial results.

Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: June 30, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan

Infographic

Pumpkin seed vs Sunflower seed infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Pumpkin seed Sunflower seed
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Pumpkin seed Sunflower seed Opinion
Net carbs 35.35g 11.4g Pumpkin seed
Protein 18.55g 20.78g Sunflower seed
Fats 19.4g 51.46g Sunflower seed
Carbs 53.75g 20g Pumpkin seed
Calories 446kcal 584kcal Sunflower seed
Sugar 2.62g Pumpkin seed
Fiber 18.4g 8.6g Pumpkin seed
Calcium 55mg 78mg Sunflower seed
Iron 3.31mg 5.25mg Sunflower seed
Magnesium 262mg 325mg Sunflower seed
Phosphorus 92mg 660mg Sunflower seed
Potassium 919mg 645mg Pumpkin seed
Sodium 18mg 9mg Sunflower seed
Zinc 10.3mg 5mg Pumpkin seed
Copper 0.69mg 1.8mg Sunflower seed
Manganese 0.496mg 1.95mg Sunflower seed
Selenium 53µg Sunflower seed
Vitamin A 62IU 50IU Pumpkin seed
Vitamin A RAE 3µg 3µg
Vitamin E 35.17mg Sunflower seed
Vitamin C 0.3mg 1.4mg Sunflower seed
Vitamin B1 0.034mg 1.48mg Sunflower seed
Vitamin B2 0.052mg 0.355mg Sunflower seed
Vitamin B3 0.286mg 8.335mg Sunflower seed
Vitamin B5 0.056mg 1.13mg Sunflower seed
Vitamin B6 0.037mg 1.345mg Sunflower seed
Folate 9µg 227µg Sunflower seed
Choline 55.1mg Sunflower seed
Tryptophan 0.326mg 0.348mg Sunflower seed
Threonine 0.683mg 0.928mg Sunflower seed
Isoleucine 0.956mg 1.139mg Sunflower seed
Leucine 1.572mg 1.659mg Sunflower seed
Lysine 1.386mg 0.937mg Pumpkin seed
Methionine 0.417mg 0.494mg Sunflower seed
Phenylalanine 0.924mg 1.169mg Sunflower seed
Valine 1.491mg 1.315mg Pumpkin seed
Histidine 0.515mg 0.632mg Sunflower seed
Saturated Fat 3.67g 4.455g Pumpkin seed
Omega-3 - EPA 0.014g Sunflower seed
Monounsaturated Fat 6.032g 18.528g Sunflower seed
Polyunsaturated fat 8.844g 23.137g Sunflower seed

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Pumpkin seed Sunflower seed
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
4%
Pumpkin seed
146%
Sunflower seed
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
103%
Pumpkin seed
207%
Sunflower seed

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Sunflower seed
Sunflower seed contains less Sodium (difference - 9mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Sunflower seed
Sunflower seed is lower in glycemic index (difference - 20)
Which food is cheaper?
Sunflower seed
Sunflower seed is cheaper (difference - $0.6)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Sunflower seed
Sunflower seed is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Sunflower seed
Sunflower seed is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Pumpkin seed
Pumpkin seed is lower in Sugar (difference - 2.62g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Pumpkin seed
Pumpkin seed is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.785g)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Pumpkin seed - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170188/nutrients
  2. Sunflower seed - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170562/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.