The first Wednesday in October offers up the seasonal delight, National Pumpkin Seed Day! As the temperatures cool and the leaves turn, snack on these delicious tidbits.

Many of us have fond memories of roasting these delicious nuggets after carving the Jack o’ lantern. However, we never realized just how good (and good for us) they were. Surprisingly, pumpkin seeds have been valued for their dietary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. In fact, pumpkin seeds have been traced back as far as 7000 BC, according to archeologists excavating a tomb in central Mexico.

Among other civilizations, the Aztecs and Mayans were believed to revere pumpkin seeds as an essential and powerful source of food and nutrition. As it turns out they were on to something – In comparison to other nuts and seeds, Pumpkin Seeds are one of the most nutritious plant-based foods. A quarter-cup serving alone includes an immune-boosting 17% of an adult’s daily allowance of zinc and a robust red blood cell-supporting 15% of the iron needed.

This little seed also has a whopping 8.5 grams of complete plant-based protein in just 1 ounce. Ounce for ounce, that’s 2.5 times more protein than a hard-boiled egg. These flavorful bites have much more to offer including a plentiful helping of minerals with over 40% of the RDI of magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, essential nutrients that aid in overall body function.

Pumpkin seeds without shells, also known as pepitas, provide an even better standalone snack. Pepitas are especially delicious when dry roasted. Try adding savory seasonings, too. They also make great additions to salads, oatmeal, and even ice cream. Mix them into baked goods for added crunch or to granola and bars for extra protein. Don’t hesitate to elevate a savory dish to a new level by creating a pesto with pumpkin seeds.

So, if you’ve never tried pumpkin seeds, now you have more reasons than ever to go for it, because they are positively delicious!