Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkins are good for so much more than just Halloween décor and pumpkin pie. They are a tasty, nutrient-dense food and provide a variety of health benefits to the body. And, so do the seeds. This article highlights some of the nutrients and benefits of the delicious fall plant. And, it provides a few suggestions on how to incorporate pumpkin into your diet.
Nutrient Profile of Pumpkin
According to the USDA, one cup of pumpkin has the following:
- Calories: 49
- Protein: 1.76 g
- Fat: 0.17g
- Carbohydrates: 12.01g
- Fiber: 2.7g
Pumpkin packs in a variety of vitamins and minerals, is high in water content, and is low in calories. Its star nutrient is beta carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A. One cup of cooked pumpkin has over 200% of the Reference Daily Intake for Vitamin A.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkin’s nutrient-dense meat has a wide range of health benefits. Here are a few of them:
Improve the Immune System
The aforementioned beta carotene to Vitamin A conversion plays a healthy in the body’s wellbeing. Vitamin A is known to have anti-inflammatory effects and may help improve the body’s immune system (1). Pumpkin is also a good source of Vitamin C, which, like Vitamin A, plays a role in supporting the body’s immune system (2).
Promote Healthy Vision
Pumpkin’s star nutrient, Vitamin A, also supports eye health. Not getting enough Vitamin A has shown to have a negative impact on vision and it may play a part in combating age-related eye disease (3).
Promote a Healthy Digestive Tract
Pumpkin is a good source of fiber. Dietary fiber plays a role in balancing blood sugar and promoting a healthy digestive tract by supporting regular bowel movements. If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet via pumpkin, one cup of canned pumpkin has about three times more fiber than one cup of raw boiled pumpkin.
Support Weight Loss
Because pumpkin is low calories, high in water content, and high in fiber, it can help fill you up without consuming too many calories. Reducing calories while eating good nutrients and feeling full can help promote weight loss.
Support Healthy Muscle and Nerve Function
Potassium is an essential mineral for the body. One cup of canned pumpkin contains about 500 mg. Potassium is highly electrical, so it plays a role in a lot of different functions in the body. However, potassium is most vital for the heart muscle function, nerve impulses, and the regulation of fluid inside and outside the cells.
These are just a few of the benefits of the meat of the pumpkin. But, don’t forget about the seeds.
Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds may be tiny, but they have a powerful nutrient profile that provides their own set of health benefits. Here are a few of the nutrients in pumpkin seeds that stand out.
Good Source of Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of reactions within the body. And, many people in the US aren’t getting enough of it. Among many other benefits, magnesium helps support healthy bones (4), healthy blood pressure (5), and prevention of heart disease (6).
Good Source of Protein
We need protein to help our tissues, grow, build, and repair. A one-ounce serving provides about 7 grams of protein, making it a great protein source for plant-based eaters.
Source of Fiber
Like the pumpkin meat, pumpkin seeds are a source of fiber which can help support a healthy digestive tract. There are about 1.7 grams of fiber in one ounce of raw pumpkin seeds.
Antioxidants are known to reduce inflammation in the cells which can help reduce the risk of disease (7). Pumpkin seeds have a handful of antioxidants which help support a healthy immune system.
Phytosterol is a chemical that typically found in nuts and seeds. It can be helpful in the body as it has shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol (8) in the body.
Good Source of Zinc
Zinc is essential to a variety of reactions in the body. It supports the immune system, wound healing, and DNA synthesis.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. The body cannot create is so it must be consumed through diet. Tryptophan converts to serotonin in the body which is known to help regulate sleep and improve mood.
Tips for Incorporating Pumpkin into Your Diet
Pumpkin is an incredibly versatile food and is easy to add to many sweet or savory dishes. This nutritious fall staple is used in pies, breads, sauces, soups, smoothies, or just eaten by itself. So, there are lots of ways to sneak it into your nutrition plan. Here are a few more tips when trying to incorporate pumpkin into your diet.
Use Real Pumpkin
Canned or whole pumpkin is ideal. The pumpkin mixes and pumpkin-flavored items typically have extra sugar.
Use it as an Oil, Butter or Egg Replacement in Recipes
Not only will you get the benefits from the pumpkin, but you’ll also make the recipe a bit healthier. Here are the suggested ratios for swapping ingredients:
- Egg: 1/4c pumpkin puree to 1 egg
- Oil: 1 cup pumpkin puree to 1 cup oil
- Butter: 3/4 cup pumpkin to 1 cup butter
Beware of the Sugary, Artificial Pumpkin
Just because it says “pumpkin”, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Pumpkin spice lattes, sugary pumpkin breads, pumpkin ice cream, and pumpkin fudge might be everywhere this fall. And, although they may be tasty, if you’re looking to get the benefits of pumpkin, steer clear of the sugary, artificially flavored versions.
It Doesn’t Have to be Seasonal
Getting real pumpkin is typically a fall event. However, canned pumpkin is available year-round and is inexpensive. So, you can incorporate it into your diet for more than just a season.
Pumpkin is a fantastic food to add to your diet for a variety of reasons. It’s packed with nutrients that are essential for healthy body function. And, so are the seeds. There are many great ways to incorporate it into your diet throughout the year. So, find what works best for you and enjoy!
Are you passionate about nutrition and want to learn more? Check out ISSA’s Nutrition course and start expanding your business!
- Huang, Zhiyi, et al. “Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System.” Journal of Clinical Medicine vol. 7,9 258. Spet 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/
- Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 November. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29099763
- Hammond BR Jr, Johnson MA. The age-related eye disease study (AREDS). Nutr Rev. 2002 September. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12296455
- Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE. Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 April. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19828898
- Dickinson HO, et al., Magnesium supplementation for the management of essential hypertension in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 July. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16856052
- Peacock JM, et al.. Serum magnesium and risk of sudden cardiac death in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Am Heart J. 2010 September. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20826254
- Mangge H, et al.. Antioxidants, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. World J Cardiol. 2014 June 26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24976919
- Moghadasian MH, Frohlich JJ. Effects of dietary phytosterols on cholesterol metabolism and atherosclerosis: clinical and experimental evidence. Am J Med. 1999 December. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10625028