Pumpkin Seeds vs. Sunflower Seeds — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
Table of contents
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now that we know the nutritional compositions of these seeds, we can explore how they positively impact our health.
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. These positive effects may lead to a decreased 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 low-density cholesterol levels (7).
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).
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
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.
- Effects of sunflower seeds on fasting blood glucose in diabetes mellitus type 2 patients
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||3µg||3µg|
|Omega-3 - EPA||0.014g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.
- Pumpkin seed - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170188/nutrients
- 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.