Pumpkins are pretty prevalent in North American culture, especially this time of year. Linus waited on the appearance of the Great Pumpkin. Everything becomes some version of itself, but pumpkin-spiced! And what’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie? But besides being a marketing tool and a great dessert, there’s more to pumpkins than meets the eye! Let’s talk about seven health benefits of pumpkin, most of which you probably aren’t even aware of!
7 Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Commonly thought of as a vegetable, pumpkins are actually a fruit. There are seeds! We can forgive the mistake though because, nutritionally speaking, pumpkins have more in common with other vegetables.
Your average pumpkin is chock full of nutrition, especially Vitamin A. Just one cup of pumpkin contains 245% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. But while it excels in delivering Vitamin A into our systems, that’s not all it has. One serving also has between 8%-19% RDI of Vitamin C, Potassium, Copper, Maganese, Vitamin B2, Vitamin E, Iron & small amounts of other various minerals and vitamins. Not only do you get all that nutritional goodness, but it’s also low in calories too because, like watermelons, it’s mostly water, 94%! And if you eat the seeds, there are a bonus 11 other health benefits to be had!
Because the Fall is also considered cold/flu season, it’s a good idea to add more pumpkin into your diet around this time. Maybe that’s why pumpkin is historically associated with the November holiday, Thanksgiving. Our ancestors learned early that a good way to stay healthy was a good diet including pumpkin. How does it do this? Well, 19% of the section above is Vitamin C, which is what our bodies use to fight of colds and diseases by strengthening our immune systems. And that Vitamin A is critical to fighting infections. Don’t fall victim to late-season colds. Have a pumpkin instead!
You read that right. Lose weight! Be skeptical all you want, but here’s how this works. Pumpkins are high in fiber, around 7 grams in a cup. That’s more than you would get if you had two slices of whole-grain bread! The fiber, in turn, slows digestion, leaving people feeling fuller longer. Which means that they don’t overeat as much. Great news for people who like to eat dessert first at Thanksgiving, but only if it’s pumpkin pie! And because pumpkin is mostly water, to begin with, you’re better hydrated and only for the price of 50 calories per serving.
As we get older, our eyesight starts to decline. It’s a natural part of aging. We’ve already talked about the vitamin content of pumpkins, but do you know what each of the vitamins does in relation to eyesight? Increased Vitamin A protects the cornea and improves our ability to see in low lighting. Vitamin C reduces the risk of macular degeneration, which in turn leads to adult blindness. The antioxidants reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, like cataracts. And finally, Zinc helps keep our retinas healthy.
Reduces Diabetes Risk
Pumpkins reduce glucose (sugar) levels in our bodies and they promote the creation of insulin. Admittedly, the studies into how pumpkins exactly help prevent diabetes are not done yet, but the science IS promising. But if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, maybe you’ve just recently been tested, it wouldn’t hurt to start chewing on some pumpkin seeds as a snack.
Cancer cells use free radicals to proliferate in a person’s body. Pumpkins are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants, which are used to remove free radicals from our bodies. Funny side note of carotenoids is that foods containing large amounts of them tend to be orange-hued. So, any of the orange-hued vegetables are also likely to be a good source for carotenoids, in case you get tired of a steady diet of pumpkin. But, sadly, no, Cheetos don’t count.
Better Heart Health
There are actually two things pumpkins do to our bodies that help us have better heart health. So, it’s a twofer in this category! It lowers blood pressure by helping to keep the blood vessels flexible, improving circulation and it reduces inflammation, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease in general. Now, if you buy pumpkin seeds in the store with an eye towards heart health, check the sodium levels because many of these products can have high amounts of sodium in them, which is counterproductive.
Really, these seven diseases are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pumpkins. There are many more health benefits. We just hit the high notes here. But the real question isn’t whether you should eat more pumpkin, it’s how to introduce more pumpkin into your diet. Don’t worry. We have you covered here too. Just check out some of these healthy recipes to start out. There’s everything there from breakfast to dinner to obvious desserts (but healthy ones!). So, tomorrow, what fruit come vegetable are you adding to your diet?