With Halloween around the corner, pumpkin and pumpkin flavored foods are popping up in shops and cafés all over the place. Aside from tasting delicious in baked goods, pasta, and even coffee drinks, pumpkin also happens to be a nutrient powerhouse.
From beauty bonuses like anti-aging benefits to boosting your immune system like promoting a happy gut, here are some of the reasons to eat more pumpkin and how to incorporate this delicious fruit in your diet (*you heard, it's a fruit, not a vegetable!).
Health benefits and nutritional breakdown of pumpkins
1. They're packed full of vitamin A
The beta-carotene (what give them that orange color) is converted to vitamin A in the body, which makes pumpkin a rich source of this important nutrient. Aside from supporting eye health, it can also give you a glowing complexion and help fight wrinkles thanks to this anti-aging properties.
A half-cup serving of cooked pumpkin provides over 350% of your daily needs (1). Just a word of caution though – too much beta-carotene can make you look orange, and you might wind up with an accidental pumpkin glow or orange-y palms! (*Halloween costume?)
2. They contain tons of vitamin C
The vitamin C in pumpkins helps promote healthy immune system function, which is important to fight off those lovely fall colds. It’s also a naturally occurring antioxidant that fights damage caused by harmful free radical agents like smoke, pollution and toxic chemicals we’re exposed to. This is part of the mechanism is what makes it important for maintaining healthy skin since those compounds can wreak havoc.
Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production, a tissue that’s key to keeping your skin looking youthful, so including plenty of vitamin C-rich foods like pumpkin in your diet can be great for your inside and outside. A half-cup serving provides almost 10% of what you need for the day (1).
3. They're loaded with fiber
Pumpkins boast 3 grams of filling fiber per half-cup – making it a helpful and yummy treat that can help with all sorts of wellbeing issues. For example, with only 45 calories, they sure aren't fattening and rather make a great choice if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight.
Fiber is also helpful when you're constipated as it improves digestion naturally, and is also beneficial for heart health as it helps reduce cholesterol absorption in the body (2). Stock up on those pumpkin seeds, friends.
4. They've got a good amount of potassium
This mineral helps fight bloating naturally, boost muscle recovery after a tough workout and regulate blood pressure. A serving of pumpkin provides about 7% of your daily potassium needs.
On another note, women can benefit from including more potassium in their diet as it can help ease period pain and cramps.
Science-based health benefits of pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are also a big winner. They are packed full of nutrients that help support the body and mind in so many ways – specifically protein, zinc and tryptophan (3).
A quarter-cup serving provides 9 grams of satisfying protein as well as heart-healthy fats. Also, the zinc in the seeds (14% of daily needs per serving) boosts immune function and supports sexual health, especially in men. While amino acid tryptophan in the seeds is a precursor to the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin, which means they may also help keep the autumn blues at bay and help fight seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Ways to incorporate pumpkin into your diet
There are many ways to sneak pumpkin into your meals. For example, pumpkin purée can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, soup, stew, chili, pasta sauce, casseroles, meatloaf, and of course in baked goods like pie, cookies, and cake. It not only adds texture but tons of flavor too.
You can also mix pumpkin with hummus for a lower-calorie, high fiber spread that’s delicious for dipping veggies.
The seeds make a great salad topping or addition to grain dishes or breakfast cereal. You can also try them sprinkled in yogurt or tossed into trail mix. You can also pulse pumpkin seeds in a food processor to make your own pumpkin seed butter.
Try to avoid the over-processed, artificially flavored options like Pumpkin Spice Lattes at big coffee shop chains. Instead, make your own homemade version – it can be a lot more satisfying!