Not only is fall’s signature squash versatile enough to fit into all the above and more, pumpkin also packs some powerful healthy perks, like keeping heart health, vision and waistlines in check, as long as you take it easy on the pie, that is.
Pumpkin is a great source of potassium and beta-carotene, which is a carotenoid that converts to vitamin A. It also contains some minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite health benefits of pumpkin.
Good for healthy skin
Pumpkin contains vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene, all of which have been found to play an important role in the health of our skin.
Vitamin C is not naturally made by the body and so it is important we get it from the diet every day, as it plays a part in collagen formation, helps to prevent bruising and helps with wound healing.
Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and acts together with vitamin C, helping to protect against sun damage and prevent dryness of the skin. Vitamin A, or beta-carotene, is also involved in skin protection from the sun’s UVB rays and may help protect against sunburn, although sunscreen is still required!
Good for eye health
A deficiency of vitamin A has been linked to reduced vision or even blindness. Beta-carotene, as well as vitamins C and E, can help protect eyes and reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases.
Reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is the medical name for a combination of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure which collectively then increases your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
A 2015 study in Japan found that diets high in carotenoids, which are pigments found in fruit and vegetables that give them their orange, yellow and green colours, may help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome.
Support the immune system
As indicated by their bright orange colour, pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when consumed. Research has demonstrated that vitamin A plays an important role in supporting the immune system, of which around 80% is in the digestive system. Further research suggests that diet, including vitamin A, has a direct effect on immune system function.
While there are no single `superfoods` that can prevent cancer and certain risk factors for cancer are unrelated to diet, there is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer. There is some evidence to suggest that the antioxidant properties of carotenoids, vitamin A and vitamin E, all of which are found in pumpkin, may protect against breast cancer.
There has also been researching into the role carotenoids play in reducing lung cancer, but so far this has not proven to be statistically significant.
Pumpkins aid weight loss
Pumpkin is an often-overlooked source of fibre, but with three grams per one-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories.
A fibre-rich diet seems to help people eat less, and thereby shed pounds. A 2009 study found that people who ate a whole apple before lunch (the fibre is in the skin) consumed fewer calories throughout the meal than people who ate applesauce or drank apple juice, WebMD reported.
Pumpkin seeds can help your heart
Nuts and seeds, including those of pumpkins, are naturally rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols that have been shown in studies to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Pumpkin seeds can boost your mood
Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, the famed ingredient in turkey that many think brings on the need for that post-Thanksgiving feast snooze. While experts agree that it’s likely the overeating rather than the tryptophan lulling you to sleep, the amino acid is important in the production of serotonin, one of the major players when it comes to our mood, WebMD reports. A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds may help your outlook stay bright.
Pumpkins can help after a hard workout
Ever heard of bananas being touted as nature’s energy bar? Turns out, a cup of cooked pumpkin has more of the refuelling nutrient potassium, with 564 milligrams to a banana’s 422.
A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best.