Particularly popular at Thanksgiving and Halloween, pumpkin is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Although pumpkin is commonly viewed as a vegetable, it can be scientifically said to be a fruit because it contains seeds. In addition to its taste, pumpkin is nutritious and has numerous health benefits.
Here are 10 impressive nutritional and health benefits of pumpkin:
1. Rich in Vitamin A And Highly Nutritious
Pumpkin has an impressive nutrient profile.
One cup of cooked pumpkin (245 grams) contains:
Fat: 0.2 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Carbs: 12 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Vitamin A: 245% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
Vitamin C: 19% of the RDI
Potassium: 16% of the RDI
Copper: 11% of the RDI
Manganese: 11% of the RDI
Vitamin B2: 11% of the RDI
Vitamin E: 10% of the RDI
Iron: 8% of the RDI
Small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate and several B vitamins. Besides being packed with vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is also relatively low in calories, as it’s 94% water. It’s also very high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body turns into vitamin A. Moreover, pumpkin seeds are edible, nutritious and linked to numerous health benefits.
2. Reduces the Risk of Chronic Diseases Thanks to Its High Antioxidant Content
Free radicals are molecules produced by your body’s metabolic process. Although they are quite unstable, excess free radicals in your body that have beneficial roles such as destroying harmful bacteria create a condition called oxidative stress, which has been linked to chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Pumpkins contain antioxidants such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. These neutralize free radicals, preventing them from damaging your cells. These antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage and reduce the risk of cancer, eye diseases and other conditions.
3. Provides Vitamins to Boost Immunity
Vitamin A in pumpkin strengthens your immune system and thus helps fight infections. People with vitamin A deficiency have a weaker immune system. Pumpkin is also rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more effectively and heal wounds faster. It is also a good source of vitamin E, iron, and folate – all of which have also been shown to help the immune system.
4. Vitamin A, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin Improve Your Vision
You can reduce your risk of age-related vision loss by eating the right foods. Pumpkin is rich in nutrients that have been linked to strong eyesight as your body ages. For example, its beta-carotene content provides your body with essential vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A deficiency is a very common cause of blindness. In an analysis of 22 studies, scientists discovered that people with higher beta-carotene intakes had a significantly lower risk of cataracts, a common cause of blindness. Pumpkin is also one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. In addition, it contains high amounts of vitamins C and E, which act as antioxidants and can prevent free radicals from damaging your eye cells.
5. Helps Weight Loss Due to Its Low Calories
Pumpkin is a nutrient-dense food. It’s also incredibly low in calories, despite being packed with nutrients. It runs under 50 calories (245 grams) per cup and is about 94% water. Simply put, pumpkin is a weight loss aid because you can consume more of other carbohydrate sources such as rice and potatoes, but still consume fewer calories. What’s more, pumpkin is a good source of fiber, which can help curb your appetite.
6. Antioxidant Content Reduces Cancer Risk
Cancer cells that grow abnormally, with serious consequences, produce free radicals to help them multiply rapidly. Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, compounds that can act as antioxidants. This allows them to neutralize free radicals, which may protect against certain cancers. Scientific studies have shown that high alpha-carotene and beta-carotene intake significantly lowers the risk of stomach cancer. Similarly, it found that individuals with higher carotenoid intakes had a lower risk of throat, pancreatic, breast, and other cancers.
7. Potassium, Vitamin C and Fiber Benefit Heart Health
Pumpkin contains high amounts of potassium, vitamin C and fiber, which have been linked to heart health. People with high potassium intake have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of stroke. Pumpkin is also high in antioxidants, which can protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidation. When LDL cholesterol particles are oxidized, they can clump along the walls of blood vessels, constricting your arteries and increasing your risk of heart disease.
8. Contains Important Compounds For Healthy Skin
Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients that are great for your skin. Firstly, it’s high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. One cup (245 grams) of cooked pumpkin provides 245% of your daily requirement for vitamin A. Also, carotenoids such as beta-carotene act as a natural sunscreen. Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which is essential for healthy skin. Your body needs this vitamin to make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy. In addition, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E and many other antioxidants found in pumpkin strengthen your skin’s defense against UV rays.
9. Effective In The Treatment Of Diabetes And Lowering Blood Sugar
Pumpkin lowers blood sugar levels, improves glucose tolerance, and increases the amount of insulin the body produces. One animal study found that compounds in pumpkin reduced the insulin needs of mice with diabetes by naturally increasing insulin production. Another animal study observed that two compounds in pumpkin — trigonelline and nicotinic acid — may be responsible for its blood-sugar-lowering and diabetes-preventing effects.
10. Incredibly Versatile and Easy to Add to Your Diet
Its sweet taste makes it a popular ingredient in dishes such as custards, pies, and pancakes. But it also works well in savory dishes like roasted vegetables, soups, and pastas. Its seeds are also edible and packed with many other beneficial nutrients. For example, pumpkin seeds may improve bladder and heart health. Pumpkin is also available pre-cut or canned, giving you flexibility in your recipes and preparation. The easiest way to eat them is to season it with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven. Many people also enjoy making pumpkin soup, especially during the winter months.