5 Impressive Nutritional Benefits Of The Humble Pumpkin
If there’s one vegetable that just shouts “fall”, it’s pumpkins. Going to a pumpkin patch is a staple fall activity for many people, regardless of their age. There’s just something magical (and sometimes mysterious) about pumpkins!
The versatile vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask) can be used in so many ways. From making scrumptious pies to carving creepy Halloween decorations, there is no shortage of uses for the humble pumpkin.
What many people may not know, however, is just how nutritious pumpkins are. They are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients that help the body in various ways. There are several different varieties of pumpkin, including the large variety used for carving jack-o’-lanterns, pie pumpkins, miniature pumpkins, white pumpkins… The list goes on, and each type serves their own unique purpose. But what health benefits do pumpkins really have?
What nutrients is pumpkin high in?
Pumpkins are nutrient-dense, which means they have a lot of nutrients and a low calorie count. They contain high levels of vitamins K and C, potassium, and iron. Pumpkin is also high in beta-carotene, the antioxidant that gives it its beautiful orange hue. Beta-carotene is synthesized into vitamin A in the body, which is good for immune health, vision, and many other.
What are the health benefits of pumpkin?
Aside from giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs, pumpkins have all kinds of additional benefits because of their nutrient content.
1. May reduce chronic disease risk
Pumpkins have a high antioxidant content. They contain alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Antioxidants are important for overall health because the body needs them to neutralize free radicals, which are molecules that can drive oxidative stress if there are too many of them.
Oxidative stress has been closely linked to the development of chronic diseases, including both cancer and heart disease. The antioxidants in pumpkins can help neutralize these free radicals, warding off oxidative stress and, in doing so, reducing the risk of you developing a chronic disease.
2. Good immunity booster
The immune system is vital to overall health because it acts as the body’s defense system against foreign invaders and pathogens such as bacteria or viruses. When the immune system is at its best, the body is well protected against illness.
The vitamins that pumpkin provides, specifically vitamin A, can strengthen the immune system as well as help people fight off any infections that do occur. The vegetable also has a high amount of vitamin C, which helps to increase the number of immune-fighting cells known as white blood cells.
Other nutrients that play a role in immune health include vitamin E, iron, and folate, which can all be found in pumpkin as well.
3. Good for the eyes
As people age, their eyesight begins to get worse. It’s part of the natural aging process. However, you can lower your risk of losing your eyesight as you get older by consuming the right nutrients.
Pumpkin contains many nutrients that are beneficial when it comes to preventing sight loss. Vitamin A, as mentioned several times before, is a great nutrient to protect the eyes; deficiencies in vitamin A have even been shown to cause blindness. Beta-carotene has been linked to eyesight health as well, and studies show that people who eat more foods rich in this nutrient have a lower risk of developing cataracts.
Pumpkin also contains two compounds known as lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been linked to the reduction of macular degeneration caused by aging.
4. Could lower your risk for developing cancer
Cancer is an unfortunately common occurrence across the globe. The antioxidants found in pumpkin may help to reduce your risk of developing cancer by preventing free radicals from getting out of control within the body.
Alpha- and beta-carotene, specifically, have been shown to reduce the risk of stomach cancer. Both these antioxidants are examples of carotenoids – yellow, orange, and red organic pigments that can reduce the risk of throat, pancreas, breast, and other types of cancer.
5. Good for the heart
Pumpkin contains many nutrients that contribute to the overall health of your heart. Their potassium, vitamin C, and fiber content is what leads researchers to believe that pumpkins could help keep your most important muscle healthy through the years.
Studies have shown that potassium could help to reduce the risk of a stroke and lower blood pressure, both of which are factors that play into the development of heart disease. The antioxidant content in pumpkins is also helpful to the heart because they it has been shown to reduce the oxidization of bad cholesterol, which can lead to blocked arteries.
Whether you’re a huge pumpkin fan already or are new to the gourd game, there are countless scientifically backed reasons why you should add some more pumpkin to your diet. The good news is that this vegetable is so versatile it can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. Pumpkin seeds also contain many health benefits, so don’t forget about those when you’re preparing your pumpkin feast!