Pumpkin has a ton of healthy benefits to add nutrition to your diet and boost the taste of pretty much anything you’re craving. Sweet or savoury—it complements both and is pretty low in calories, making it an excellent diet food. As if you needed more excuse to dig into pumpkin-spiced goodies all year long, here are nine awesome benefits of your favourite orange-coloured food.
Pumpkins are a good source of fibre, which helps keep you feeling full and promotes healthy digestion. The health benefits of pumpkin’s fibre don’t stop there: All those stomach-satisfying powers also lower your risk for obesity, all while increasing nutrient absorption. It also slows absorption of the carbohydrates, including natural sugars, so you don’t experience the blood sugar highs and lows of, say, a handful of gummy bears. Plus like many, pumpkin is mostly made of water about 90 percent.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Your heart loves pumpkin as much as your taste buds do. Pumpkin contains potassium and antioxidants, which contribute to good heart health. While the pumpkin purée nutrition facts panel lists only a half gram of fat, there are more oils in the seeds. That healthy pumpkin seed oil helps prevent high blood pressure—and can lower already-high levels.
Reduce Cancer Risk
A magical combo platter of vitamins A and C, iron and more nutrients make pumpkin natural armour against cancer cells. In particular, the health benefits of pumpkin decrease risk for prostate, breast and colon cancers. Consuming the antioxidants found in foods like pumpkin, corn and beans leads to less oxidative stress, a major factor in decreasing cancer risk. And once again, fibre may play a role here. Consuming more soluble fibre has been linked to lower risk of mouth, colon and stomach cancers, too.
Improves Eye Health
This stellar winter squash is a real vision-booster. Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, which can be converted to vitamin A, important for keeping your eyes healthy. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, in particular, are beneficial in the battle against cataracts. You’ve heard all about the sight advantages of carrots, right? Well the health benefits of pumpkin trump the same size serving of the root veggie: Half a cup of pumpkin contains more than 1,000 milligrams of vitamin A, while a half cup of cooked carrots has about 700 milligrams.
Promote Weight Loss
Pumpkin is considered a nutrient-dense food. That means it’s incredibly low in calories despite being packed with nutrients. In fact, pumpkin clocks in at under 50 calories per cup and consists of about 94% of water. Simply put, pumpkin is a weight-loss friendly food because you can consume more of it than other carb sources — such as rice and potatoes — but still take in fewer calories. What’s more, the fibres in pumpkins can help curb your appetite.
Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Pumpkin contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your heart health. It’s high in potassium, vitamin C and fibre, which have been linked to heart benefits. For instance, studies have shown that people with higher potassium intakes appear to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of strokes — two risk factors for heart disease. Pumpkin is also high in antioxidants, which may protect bad LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. When LDL cholesterol particles oxidize, they can clump along the walls of blood vessels, which can restrict your vessels and raise your risk of heart disease.
Promote Healthy Skin
Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients that are great for your skin. For one, it’s high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A, as we’ve mentioned before. In fact, one cup of cooked pumpkin packs 245% of the RDI for vitamin A. Studies show that carotenoids like beta-carotene can act as a natural sunblock. Once ingested, carotenoids are transported to various organs including your skin. Here, they help protect skin cells against damage from harmful UV rays. 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.
When you enjoy it unadorned, aka no fancy stuff, just the squash, pumpkin calories are quite low. Since following a low-cat diet is key to keeping type 2 diabetes in check, that makes pumpkin a wise choice. Seek out canned pumpkin without added sugar and you can enjoy it all year. The phenolic phytochemicals in this super-fruit have been shown to control blood sugar levels, and in turn, lower the risk for diabetes. Boosting fibre consumption can help maintain blood sugar levels, too, which can aid in weight loss and help manage diabetes.
Boost Muscle Function
Pumpkin also contains magnesium, a mineral that many of us are not getting enough of and that is very important for many functions in the body like energy creation, muscle relaxation and nervous system regulation. Magnesium is especially important for active people working out a lot because during exercise your body redistributes magnesium to accommodate metabolic needs. That means you may be losing the magnesium stores in the muscles and must replenish them through food and drink. So, eating pumpkin after a tough workout can be especially helpful in recovery. In just 1 cup of pumpkin, you’ll get 14%of your daily value and pumpkin seeds contain 37% of the daily requirement.
Some wise ways to get your pumpkin nutrition fix:
- Add pumpkin to smoothies.
- Purée pumpkin into soups.
- Mix pumpkin into overnight oats or oatmeal bowls.
- Stir pumpkin into plain yogurt and top with cinnamon.
- Whisk pumpkin into cheesy pasta sauces.
- Incorporate pumpkin into pumpkin bread with avocado, dark chocolate chips and almonds.