More than just a decorative Halloween candleholder or a pie filling to be eaten only once a year, pumpkin is one of the most nutritional foods available year round. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, both the flesh and seeds of the pumpkin provide many health-boosting nutrients.
Nutrients in Pumpkin
Pumpkin is low in fat and calories and rich in disease-fighting nutrients such as:
- Vitamins C and E
- Pantothenic acid
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
The alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are potent antioxidants found in pumpkin and are pro-vitamin A carotenoids, meaning the body converts them to vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes healthy vision and ensures proper immune function. The beta-carotene in pumpkin may also reverse skin damage caused by the sun and act as an anti-inflammatory. Alpha-carotene is thought to slow the aging process and also reduce the risk of developing cataracts and prevent tumor growth. Carotenoids also boost immunity and lessen the risk of heart disease.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber; one-half cup serving contains 5 grams of fiber. Fiber helps reduce bad cholesterol levels, protect the body against heart disease, control blood sugar levels, promote healthy digestion, and plays a role in weight loss.
The vitamin E which promotes healthy skin by protecting the body from sun damage and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.
The potassium found in pumpkin aids in balancing fluid levels in the body, promotes strong bones, is necessary for energy production, and helps to control blood pressure. Pumpkin is also rich in magnesium, which aids the body in hundreds of functions, including promoting a healthy immune system, contributing to bone strength, and normalizing heart function. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5 is also found in pumpkin. Vitamin B5 help balance hormone levels and manage stress.
While pumpkin flesh is nutrient-rich, pumpkin seeds also contain essential vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and are an excellent plant-based source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
How to Use Pumpkin
Fresh pumpkins are typically only available during fall and early winter; however, canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh. Fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin puree can be used to make soups, muffins, breads, puddings, and smoothies. Pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack, used to top salads or added to sautéed vegetables. Pumpkin-seed oil can be used in cooking or as a salad dressing.
Pratt, S. (2004). SuperFoods RX: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. New York: Harper Collins.
Ward, E. (2007). “7 Nutrients Your Diet May Be Missing.” Accessed September 26, 2009 from Medicinenet.com.