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Pumpkin seed vs Sunflower seed - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Pumpkin seed
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Sunflower seed

Introduction

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are popularly consumed as snacks or added to meals, often used interchangeably or mixed together. In this article, we will look at these two seeds individually, 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 actually the fruits of sunflower.

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 colours. Pumpkin seeds are light green, covered by white husks. Husks of sunflower seeds, depending on variety, can be anywhere in 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 flavours.

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

Varieties

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

Oilseed sunflower seeds are higher in oils, smaller in size and 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 NuSun.

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

The varieties of pumpkin seeds depend on the variety of pumpkins they grow in. 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

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

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

Calories

Both seeds are very high calorie foods, however, sunflower seeds supply more energy. A 100g serving of sunflower seeds provides 584 calories, while the same serving of pumpkin seeds contains 446 calories.

Protein and Fats

Sunflower seeds are richer in both protein and fats.

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

A hundred gram serving of pumpkin seeds contains 19g of protein, while the same serving size of sunflower seeds has 21g of protein.

Sunflower seeds are over two times higher in fats when compared to pumpkin seeds. Both types of seeds are ample in healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, containing smaller amounts of saturated fats. 

Carbohydrates

Compared to sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds contain over two times more carbohydrates. 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 this category by a long shot, being significantly richer in most vitamins. These include all B complex vitamins, vitamin E and vitamin C.

Pumpkin seeds are relatively higher in vitamin A. Pumpkin seeds also contain vitamin K, which sunflower seeds are absent in (1).

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

Minerals

Sunflower seeds are also richer in most minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and selenium (1). Sunflower seeds provide over 2 times more copper and over 7 times more phosphorus. Sunflower seeds, without added salt, are also lower in sodium.

Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, are higher in potassium, zinc and choline (1).

Glycemic Index

A specific number has not yet been calculated for the glycemic index of sunflower or pumpkin seeds. However, as these foods are low in sugar and high in dietary fiber and fats, their glycemic indices are considered 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 (2).

We can also look at the acidity of foods by taking into account their potential renal acid load or their 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

Despite the fact that sunflower and pumpkin seeds are very high in calories, these seeds 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 a low fats diet. Sunflower seeds, on the other hand, are the better choice for a low carb diet. Both seeds fit well in a low glycemic index diet.

Sunflower seed extract 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 (3).

Pumpkin seed oil has been demonstrated to prevent high fat diet-induced obesity in animal studies (4).

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 (5).

Seeds are recommended to add to paleo and Mediterranean diets as well.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Now that we know which healthy nutrients these seeds are rich in, we can look at the exact ways they positively impact our health.

Cardiovascular 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 (6).

Animal studies have demonstrated sunflower oil’s potential to decrease the risk of arrhythmias, ventricular fibrillation and myocardial ischemia (7).

Pumpkin seeds have also expressed cardioprotective qualities in animal studies, decreasing total cholesterol and low-density cholesterol levels (8). 

Diabetes

Both sunflower and pumpkin seeds have been studied to have protective qualities during hyperglycemic disorders (9).

Sunflower seeds can be recommended to people with type 2 diabetes, due to their fasting blood glucose lowering activities (10).

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 (11).

Cancer

Sunflower seeds have been studied to possess chemoprotective qualities, cytotoxic and antioxidant potential, due to a high content of flavonoids and phenolics (12).

Pumpkin seed extract has demonstrated cell growth inhibiting effects on colon, breast and prostate cancers (13).

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 (6). This shows that sunflower seed consumption should be moderated to achieve beneficial results.

Summary

To sum up, sunflower seeds are higher in calories, protein and fats. Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, are significantly higher in carbs, including dietary fiber.

Sunflower seeds are richer in both vitamins and minerals, especially B complex vitamins, vitamin C, phosphorus, copper, manganese and iron. Pumpkin seeds contain more vitamin K, zinc and choline.

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

Sources.

  1. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170556/nutrients
  2. http://www.nphsystem.guide/nut_seed_values.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566515/
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14786419.2017.1389939
  5. https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/lchf/nuts-and-seeds-on-a-ketogenic-diet
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/46303919
  7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275653985
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746528/
  9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281584996
  10. https://www.jocpr.com/articles/effects-of-sunflower-seeds-on-fasting-blood-glucose-in-diabetes-mellitus-type-2-patients.pdf
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24564589/
  12. https://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=ijcr.2016.40.50
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26976217/
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: May 17, 2021

Infographic

Pumpkin seed vs Sunflower seed infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart 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 Iron +58.6%
Contains more Calcium +41.8%
Contains more Magnesium +24%
Contains more Copper +160.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +617.4%
Contains less Sodium -50%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 125% 17% 82% 188% 230% 281% 40% 3%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 197% 24% 57% 233% 600% 137% 283% 2%
Contains more Potassium +42.5%
Contains more Zinc +106%
Contains more Iron +58.6%
Contains more Calcium +41.8%
Contains more Magnesium +24%
Contains more Copper +160.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +617.4%
Contains less Sodium -50%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart 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 C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 1% 4% 0% 0% 9% 12% 6% 4% 9% 0% 0% 7%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 5% 3% 704% 0% 370% 82% 157% 68% 311% 0% 0% 171%
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 and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
4
Pumpkin seed
156
Sunflower seed
Mineral Summary Score
120
Pumpkin seed
191
Sunflower seed

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
111%
Pumpkin seed
125%
Sunflower seed
Carbohydrates
54%
Pumpkin seed
20%
Sunflower seed
Fats
90%
Pumpkin seed
238%
Sunflower seed

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Pumpkin seed Sunflower seed
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Pumpkin seed Sunflower seed
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

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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 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)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Pumpkin seed Sunflower seed Opinion
Calories 446 584 Sunflower seed
Protein 18.55 20.78 Sunflower seed
Fats 19.4 51.46 Sunflower seed
Vitamin C 0.3 1.4 Sunflower seed
Carbs 53.75 20 Pumpkin seed
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 3.31 5.25 Sunflower seed
Calcium 55 78 Sunflower seed
Potassium 919 645 Pumpkin seed
Magnesium 262 325 Sunflower seed
Sugar 2.62 Pumpkin seed
Fiber 18.4 8.6 Pumpkin seed
Copper 0.69 1.8 Sunflower seed
Zinc 10.3 5 Pumpkin seed
Starch
Phosphorus 92 660 Sunflower seed
Sodium 18 9 Sunflower seed
Vitamin A 62 50 Pumpkin seed
Vitamin E 35.17 Sunflower seed
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.034 1.48 Sunflower seed
Vitamin B2 0.052 0.355 Sunflower seed
Vitamin B3 0.286 8.335 Sunflower seed
Vitamin B5 0.056 1.13 Sunflower seed
Vitamin B6 0.037 1.345 Sunflower seed
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 0 Sunflower seed
Folate 9 227 Sunflower seed
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 3.67 4.455 Pumpkin seed
Monounsaturated Fat 6.032 18.528 Sunflower seed
Polyunsaturated fat 8.844 23.137 Sunflower seed
Tryptophan 0.326 0.348 Sunflower seed
Threonine 0.683 0.928 Sunflower seed
Isoleucine 0.956 1.139 Sunflower seed
Leucine 1.572 1.659 Sunflower seed
Lysine 1.386 0.937 Pumpkin seed
Methionine 0.417 0.494 Sunflower seed
Phenylalanine 0.924 1.169 Sunflower seed
Valine 1.491 1.315 Pumpkin seed
Histidine 0.515 0.632 Sunflower seed
Fructose

References

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.

  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.