Feeling the Autumn vibes? The days are getting shorter, the temperature is cooler, the falling leaves are beautiful blends of oranges & yellows and pumpkin season is seriously on! Not just for Trick or Treat, take advantage of the season and enjoy all of pumpkin’s incredible health benefits. ?
Halloween & Thanksgiving are all about these big orange fruits.
So, if you’re like me and probably many people, you’ve always considered them a vegetable, but, pumpkin is scientifically a fruit because it contains seeds. That said, it’s nutritionally more similar to vegetables than fruits.
They’re in everything from pumpkin latte’s to pumpkin pie to mountains of them in supermarkets for the pure purpose of neighbours competing to see who can carve out the most scary or artistic jack o’ lanterns.
But, did you know how many health benefits they provide when eaten in their pure form instead of all the sugary versions North Americans love to consume?
Here’s a little background on this incredibly healthy versatile plant:
They’re native to North America – mostly northeastern Mexico and southern USA.
Pumpkins are part of the winter squash family or Curcubita family. In the US, Canada & the UK, pumpkin typically refers to Cucurbita pepo, an orange type of winter squash. In other regions, such as Australia & NZ, pumpkin may refer to any type of winter squash.
So why should you eat this winter ‘vegetable’ instead of just carve it up for Halloween?
7 Health Benefits of Pumpkin:
1. May Help You Lost Weight
What? A weight loss food you haven’t heard about?
If you haven’t heard me talk about it before, I’m all about a nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich wholefood diet and pumpkin fits into this perfectly. It is highly nutritious and incredibly low in calories.
Compared to other carb sources such as rice or potatoes, pumpkin is way less calorie-dense meaning you can eat more of it!
It’s also fibre-rich which means it helps slow digestion, keeping you feeling fuller longer and is great for your gut.
Tick, tick and tick.
2. Nutrient-Dense, Rich in Vitamin A & Low in Calories
Maximising your nutrient intake is essential with today’s nutrient-depleted soil and processed-food diets. Eating food with high levels of varied nutrients everyday will help to prevent disease, ageing + boost your immune system.
As I mentioned before pumpkins are a nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich powerhouse of a food. It really is a superfood.
Pumpkin, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt
1 cup mashed / 245g pumpkin contains: (1)
Fat: 0.2 grams
Protein: 1.8 grams
Carbs: 12 grams
Vitamin A: 245% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
Vitamin C: 19% of the RDI
Vitamin E: 10% of the RDI
Vitamin B2: 11% of the RDI
Potassium: 16% of the RDI
Copper: 11% of the RDI
Manganese: 11% of the RDI
Iron: 8% of the RDI
Also contains small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate and several B vitamins. Pumpkin is very high in beta-carotene which your body turns into Vitamin A which gives it many of its health benefits.
The macronutrient ratio is:
88% Carbs 3% Fats 9% Protein
Definitely a good all-rounder the perfect way to add beautiful orange to your rainbow coloured plate.
3. Great for Your Skin & Has Anti-Ageing Benefits
This always has me sold.
Aren’t we all looking for more natural ways to stay looking younger?
One of the main and most beneficial compounds in pumpkin – it’s high levels of carotenoids like beta-carotene seem responsible for many of it’s potential health benefits.
The Vitamin A that is produced in your body from the beta-carotene is incredibly beneficial for your skin.
Studies have shown that carotenoids can act as a natural sunblock. (2)
They help to protect skin against damage from the harmful UV rays. This means it may also help to protect your skin from skin cancer.
Pumpkin is high in the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C & E which help to fight the free radicals that cause ageing and protect against harmful effects of UV rays.
The vitamin C in pumpkin promotes collagen production, a protein which naturally diminishes as we age to help keep your skin soft, supple + plump.
4. May Reduce Risk of Cancers & Other Chronic Illness
Who doesn’t know someone who’s suffered from cancer?
Cancer is on the rise. I don’t know about you but I will eat more of any health food that I know will help prevent cancer. According to the World Health Organisation 30-50% of cancers are preventable through diet & lifestyle. (3)
Wouldn’t you want to feed your family more cancer-preventing foods?
As mentioned above, the carotenoids lutein & zeaxanthin as well as beta-carotene that are found in pumpkin among others work as antioxidants in the body.
There’s lots of research of antioxidants and specifically carotenoids lowering the risk of certain types of cancers such as stomach, throat, pancreas, breast and other cancers. (4, 5, 6, 7)
These studies produced positive results for the effects of carotenoids reducing the risk of certain cancers, but scientists cannot 100% conclude that it was only their role as there were other factors that may have also influenced the positive results such as rest of diet, lifestyle, etc.
These carotenoids have also shown positive results for reducing the risk of eye-related, heart and other chronic illnesses. (8)
5. Immune System Booster
Not only is it all out pumpkin + squash season but it’s cold and flu season.
Wouldn’t you love to help your family ward off cold & flu’s this winter season?
Pumpkin is the perfect food to eat more of during the colder months to help avoid those winter illnesses. Check out the links to some delicious healthy recipes below on different ways you can incorporate pumpkin into your diet.
The large shot of vitamin A the fruit provides helps your body fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases. (9)
The vitamin C in pumpkin, which is a huge 20% RDI per serving has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more effectively and make wounds heal faster, helping you to recover faster from colds/flus as well as prevent them.
Pumpkin seeds + pumpkin oil even help fight various bacterial and fungal infections. Other nutrients in pumpkin also help to boost the immune function in your body.
There’s no reason to not add more pumpkin into you and your family’s diet this winter!
6. Can Improve Eyesight
We’ve all heard that if we eat more carrots we’ll see better, right? Well pumpkin is the same. And yes you guessed it – the orange colour is from the beta-carotene in both of these bright-oranges foods that helps you to keep seeing better in the dark.
The Vitamin A produced in your body by the beta-carotene in pumpkins and other orange vegetables, helps to protect the surface (cornea) of the eye.
It can help to improve dry-eyes, reduce inflammation of the eyes and reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases such as macular degeneration when combined with the other carotenoids in pumpkin – lutein & zeaxanthin. (8)
7. Helps Combat Diabetes
Did you know that diabetes type 2 used to be called adult-onset diabetes up until just over a decade ago? And that it changed because now more and more children are being diagnosed too?
Diabetes Type 2 has unfortunately become far too prevalent and this is all related to diet & lifestyle. Fortunately improving diet & lifestyle can reduce the risk or help to improve Type 2 diabetes.
There’s more research needed, but so far there’s positive evidence that eating pumpkin may help to control this lifestyle disease. It’s been shown to reduce blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, balance levels of liver glucose and increase the amount of insulin the body produces. (10, 11)
How to Add Delicious Pumpkin to Your Meals
Beyond all those health benefits of eating pumpkin it’s delicious, versatile and easy to add to your diet!
There really is no excuse during these cooler months.
Rather than throwing away all that pulp you carve out to make your scary Halloween pumpkin, save the seeds and pulp and eat them!
Turn that sugary pumpkin pie into a healthy pumpkin muffin recipe or a healthy homemade version of pumpkin pie.
There are countless ways to eat pumpkin as a delicious savoury dish, naturally sweetened in a smoothie, as a healthy dessert or breakfast.
Here’s a few healthy recipes and ideas on ways to include more pumpkin in your diet that you might want to try:
Share below in the comments:
What’s your favourite way to eat pumpkin?
Did you know that pumpkin had this many amazing health benefits?
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