Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family.
Pumpkin is a variety of squash that people often think of as a traditional Halloween decoration or a Thanksgiving pie filling. However, the flesh of the pumpkin plant provides a range of health benefits outside of popular festivities.
Pumpkin is a plump, nutritious orange vegetable, and a highly nutrient dense food. It is low in calories but rich in vitamins and minerals, all of which are also in its seeds, leaves, and juices.
There are many ways to incorporate pumpkin into desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter.
Pumpkin has about 50 calories per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).That 1 cup also has 1.8 grams (g) of protein, 12 g of carbohydrates, and 2.7 g of dietary fiber.
On the vitamins and minerals side, it has an impressive amount of vitamin A, with 703 micrograms per cup. That’s 78 percent of the daily value (DV) of the vitamin, which supports immune health, vision, and cell growth, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Pumpkin also is a good source of vitamin C (13 percent DV in one cup) and potassium (12 percent DV per cup). Like vitamin A, vitamin C keeps the immune system humming and plays a particular role in helping wounds heal and protecting cells from damage, according to the NIH. Potassium helps all around the body, from keeping the kidneys, muscles, and heart functioning properly to monitoring nerve responses, per the NIH.
Pumpkin also contains some zinc, with about 5 percent of DV. Zinc aids metabolism and immune function, says Trista Best, RD, an environmental health specialist, adjunct nutrition professor, and consultant with Balance One Supplements based in Dalton, Georgia. It also helps the body grow and develop, which is why it’s especially important for pregnant women and children.
Benefits of Pumpkins
Pumpkin has a range of fantastic benefits, including being one of the best-known sources of beta carotene.
Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that gives orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color. The body converts any ingested beta carotene into vitamin A.
Consuming foods with high volumes of beta carotene may have the following benefits:
- decreasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration
- offering protection against asthma and heart disease
- reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancer
Many studies have suggested that eating more plant foods, such as pumpkin, decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality. It can also help a person avoid diabetes and heart disease, promote a healthy complexion and hair, increase energy, and a healthy body mass index (BMI).
Boost Your ImmunityIn addition to beta carotene, pumpkins offer vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and folate — all of which strengthen your immune system. More pumpkin in your diet can help your immune cells work better to ward off germs and speed healing when you get a wound.
Help HypertensionPumpkin’s rich orange color is also a sign it’s packed with potassium. This is crucial for lowering blood pressure. Unsalted pumpkin seeds are also crammed with minerals and plant sterols that raise HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind) and help keep blood pressure numbers down, too.
Potassium O’PlentyMore good news about pumpkins’ potassium power: Studies show that higher potassium levels can lower your risk of stroke, kidney stones, and type 2 diabetes. Another bonus: Potassium may also increase bone mineral density, boosting your bone health.
Trim Your TummyPumpkins are high in fiber and low in calories. That means they make you feel full without adding to your overall food intake for the day. If you’re looking for a healthy way to fill up, nutrient-rich pumpkin is a good go-to choice. The fiber uptick in your diet promotes digestive health, too, so what goes in comes out on a regular basis.
Sleep More SoundlyPumpkin seeds have tryptophan, an amino acid that helps make a chemical called serotonin. In addition to making you feel good, serotonin is also a key player in promoting good sleep.
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Soothe SkinThe antioxidant power of beta carotene in pumpkin works to combat the effects of aging on your skin. It also helps ease inflammation, which keeps your skin — and your body — calmer and happier.
Help Your HeartYour odds of heart disease go down as your fiber intake goes up, and pumpkin is loaded with it. But it isn’t just the fiber that takes care of your ticker: The vitamin A and potassium you get when you add pumpkin to your diet also play a part in heart health.
Best Ways to Eat PumpkinWith all the goodness pumpkins offer, surely an extra-large pumpkin spice latte with a pumpkin muffin can’t hurt. But experts say hold your horses. The best way to get pumpkin’s health benefits is to avoid the sugar and processing of baked goods or pumpkin flavor. Opt for more wholesome choices, like roasted pumpkin, pumpkin puree, pumpkin hummus, or pumpkin soup.
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkin is incredibly healthy.
What’s more, its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food.
Its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health.
Pumpkin is very versatile and easy to add to your diet in both sweet and savory dishes.
Try incorporating pumpkin into your diet today to reap its health benefits.