Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It is native to North America and is especially popular around Thanksgiving and Halloween. Although generally considered a vegetable, pumpkin is scientifically a fruit because it contains seeds. That said, nutritionally, it is closer to vegetables than fruit.
Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits.
Here Are 9 Awesome Nutritional And Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
1. Highly nutritious and particularly rich in vitamin A
Pumpkin has an impressive nutritional profile.
One cup of cooked pumpkin (245 grams) contains:
Lipids: 0.2 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 12 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Vitamin A: 245% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
Vitamin C: 19% of the AQR
Potassium: 16% of the AQR
Copper: 11% of the AQR
Manganese: 11% of the AQR
Vitamin B2: 11% of the AQR
Vitamin E: 10% of the AQR
Iron: 8% of the AQR
Small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate and several B vitamins.
In addition to being full of vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is relatively low in calories, as it is 94% water. It is also very high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body converts into vitamin A. Additionally, pumpkin seeds are edible, nutritious, and linked to many health benefits.
2. High in Antioxidants May Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease
Free radicals are molecules produced by your body’s metabolic process. Although very unstable, they play a useful role, in particular by destroying harmful bacteria. However, an excess of free radicals in your body creates 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 can neutralize free radicals, preventing them from damaging your cells. Test-tube and animal studies have shown that these antioxidants protect the skin against sun damage and reduce the risk of cancer, eye disease and other conditions. However, keep in mind that more human research is needed to make health recommendations.
3. Vitamins that can boost immunity
Pumpkin is full of nutrients that can boost your immune system. It is particularly rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help you fight infections. Conversely, people with a vitamin A deficiency may have a weaker immune system. Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more efficiently, and allow wounds to heal faster.
Apart from the two vitamins mentioned above, pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin E, iron, and folic acid, all of which have helped boost the immune system.
4. Vitamin A, Lutein and Zeaxanthin May Protect Your Eyesight
It is quite common for eyesight to decrease with age. Fortunately, eating the right nutrients can reduce the risk of vision loss. Pumpkin is packed with nutrients that have been linked to good eyesight as you age. For example, its beta-carotene content provides your body with necessary vitamin A. Research shows that vitamin A deficiency is a very common cause of blindness. In an analysis of 22 studies, scientists found that people with a higher beta-carotene intake 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 lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. In addition, it contains good amounts of vitamins C and E, which work as antioxidants and can prevent radicals free from damaging your eye cells.
5. Nutrient density and low calorie count can promote weight loss.
Pumpkin is considered a nutrient dense food. This means that it is incredibly low in calories despite being packed with nutrients. In fact, pumpkin has less than 50 calories per cup (245 grams) and is about 94% water. In other words, pumpkin is a weight-loss-friendly food because you can eat more of it than other carb sources, like rice and potatoes, while taking in fewer calories. Additionally, pumpkin is a good source of fiber, which can help reduce your appetite.
6. Antioxidant Content May Lower Your Cancer Risk
Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, which are compounds that can function as antioxidants. They can thus neutralize free radicals, which can protect against certain cancers. For example, an analysis of 13 studies showed that people with higher intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had significantly lower risks of stomach cancers. Likewise, numerous other human studies have shown that people with higher carotenoid intakes have lower risks of throat, pancreatic, breast and other cancers. However, scientists don’t know whether the carotenoids themselves or other factors, such as the lifestyle habits of people who consume carotenoid-rich diets, are responsible for these reduced risks.
7. Potassium, vitamin C and fiber may benefit heart health
Pumpkin contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your heart health. It is rich in potassium, vitamin C and fiber, which have been linked to heart benefits. For example, studies have shown that people with a higher potassium intake appear to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of stroke, two risk factors for heart disease. Pumpkin is also rich in antioxidants, which can protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidation. When LDL cholesterol particles oxidize, they can clump together along the walls of blood vessels, which can constrict your vessels and increase your risk of heart disease.
8. Contains Compounds That Promote Healthy Skin
Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients that are great for your skin. For one thing, they’re high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. In fact, one cup (245 grams) of cooked pumpkin contains 245% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. studies show that carotenoids like beta-carotene can act as a natural sunscreen. Once ingested, carotenoids are transported to various organs, including the skin. There they help protect skin cells from damage caused by harmful UV rays. Pumpkin is also rich 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. Additionally, pumpkin contains lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, and many other antioxidants that have been shown to boost your skin’s defenses against UV rays.
9. Incredibly versatile and easy to add to your diet
Pumpkin is delicious, versatile and easy to incorporate into your diet. Its sweet flavor makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like flans, pies and pancakes. However, it is equally effective in savory dishes such as roasted vegetables, soups and pasta. Pumpkin skin is very tough, which requires some effort to cut. Once you cut it, remove the seeds and stringy parts, then cut the pumpkin into quarters. The seeds are also edible and packed with nutrients that provide many other benefits. For example, pumpkin seeds can 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 pumpkin is to season it with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven. Many people also like to make pumpkin soup out of it, especially in the winter.
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkin is incredibly healthy. In addition, its low calorie content makes it a favorable food for weight loss. Its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and promote heart and skin health. Pumpkin is very versatile and easy to incorporate into your diet in sweet or savory dishes. Try incorporating pumpkin into your diet today to reap its health benefits.
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