Pumpkin seed vs Sunflower seed - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Now that we know which healthy nutrients these seeds are rich in, we can look at the exact ways 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 (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).
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).
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
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.
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.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values