by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Pumpkin is one of the most versatile ingredients you can use in cooking. It’s a nutrient powerhouse, and it’s used in everything from soups to smoothies to muffins — and much more. It is native to North America and quite popular around Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin has been around for ages, but only recently have we started to fully understand its benefits. If you are someone who loves pumpkin (and likes feeling good), we are here to tell you why you should consider adding pumpkin to your diet.
In this article, we will dive deep into six reasons why you should add pumpkin to your diet and how in doing so, it can help improve your health.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and it not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider before changing your nutrition to ensure that in doing such, it will not interfere with any health condition you may have or medications you may be taking.
6 Reasons Why You Should Add Pumpkin to Your Diet
Pumpkin contains many essential vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. Below are six reasons why you should put pumpkin in your diet.
1. Highly nutritious and rich in vitamin A
Pumpkin has a great nutrient profile.
One cup of cooked pumpkin of around 245 grams contains:
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Calories: 49
- Protein: 12 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Vitamin A: 245% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 19% of the RDI
- Copper: 11% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Manganese: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin B2: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDI
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Small amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, folate, zinc, and several B vitamins.
Besides being full of vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is also relatively low in calories, as it is made up of around 94% water. It is also relatively high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that our body turns into vitamin A.
2. It’s rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, which are responsible for cell damage that can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems.
Pumpkin is especially high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid believed to reduce inflammation in the body and may protect against cancer, and promote good vision and healthy skin.
In test-tube and animal studies, these antioxidants have been shown to protect the skin against sun damage and lower the risk of cancer, eye diseases, and other conditions.
3. Sharpens your eyesight
As the leaves start turning, it’s time to prepare for the holidays!
One of the most fun ways to get into the spirit is with some pumpkin carving. But did you know there are benefits to pumpkin carving beyond just being a fun family activity? Pumpkins are actually good for your eyesight!
For instance, the beta-carotene content in a pumpkin provides our body with necessary vitamin A. According to research, vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common causes of blindness.
In an analysis of 22 studies, researchers found that people with higher intakes of beta-carotene had a lower risk of cataracts, which is a common cause of blindness.
In addition, pumpkin contains considerable amounts of vitamins C and E, which work as antioxidants and may help stop free radicals from damaging your eye cells.
4. Helps in weight loss
Pumpkin has been shown to help with weight loss because of its high fiber content. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains 3 grams of fiber. Fiber helps fill you up and slows down digestion, so you’ll feel full longer without eating as much food. This results in fewer calories consumed overall, which can lead to weight loss over time.
5. Lowers your risk of cancer
Cancer is a critical illness in which cells grow abnormally. Cancer cells make free radicals to help them multiply rapidly.
Pumpkin contains high amounts of carotenoids, which are compounds that function as antioxidants. This helps them neutralize free radicals, which may protect against certain cancer types.
For instance, researchers who examined 13 studies found that people with higher intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had significantly lower risks of stomach cancer.
In addition, many human studies have found that people with higher intakes of carotenoids have lower risks of throat, pancreas, and breast cancers.
6. Heart healthy
The fiber found in pumpkin helps reduce cholesterol levels by binding to fat and passing it out of the body through bowel movements. This helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The vitamin C in pumpkin also helps prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing the risk of blood clots and plaque buildup on the artery walls.
According to studies, those who eat more potassium-rich foods like pumpkins and squash tend to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of strokes — two major risk factors for heart disease.
Pumpkin is also quite high in antioxidants, which may help protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. When LDL cholesterol oxidizes, it can clump along the walls of the blood vessels, and it can restrict your vessels and increase your risk of heart disease.