Whether it’s the simple sugar pumpkin or the Japanese Kabocha squash, both the flesh and the seeds from the squash are edible and nutritious. Here are ten of the most exciting advantages associated with eating more pumpkin.
1. Disease prevention
The beta-carotene that gives pumpkins their orange color also protects against lung cancer, cuts risk of heart disease, and reduces inflammation that would otherwise contribute to chronic diseases like cancer and arthritis. In particular, studies have revealed that those with diets rich in beta-carotene have lower risks for prostate and lung cancer. Additionally, the vitamins A and C present in pumpkins protect against free radicals that cause cancer.
2. Digestive health
Pumpkins are high in fiber and potassium, both of which are necessary for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber may be especially beneficial for those who struggle with bowel irregularities due to disease like IBS.
3. Weight loss
While low in calories, the fiber (seven grams in one cup) in pumpkins slows down digestion and keeps you feeling full for longer. Consequently, you’ll be less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies.
Pumpkins boost immunity, as iron is necessary for a strong immune system and just one cup of pumpkin puree contains 3.4 grams in one cup of pumpkin puree. In addition to strengthening immunity and boosting antioxidant levels, the vitamin A present also promotes healthy bones and teeth. Meanwhile, vitamin E protects cells from damage that could result in cancer. Furthermore, pumpkins contain about 20% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, which promotes recovery from colds. Pumpkin oil can even be used to treat bacterial and fungal infections.
5. Eye health
The extent of Vitamin A’s benefits continue, as it is necessary for healthy vision and helps the retina absorb and reflect sunlight. Pumpkins may also prevent cataracts because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin—two naturally occurring carotenoids.
6. Skin health
Avoid wrinkles by consuming more beta carotene; the orange color protects your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. Pumpkin can even be used to make a topical skin treatment: mix ¼ cup of pumpkin puree, an egg, 1tbsp of honey, and 1tbsp of milk. Apply to your skin and wait for about 20 minutes before washing it off with warm but not hot water.
7. May help to treat diabetes
Eating pumpkins has been proven to decrease glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, and boost insulin production. Studies with animal subjects have revealed that pumpkin seeds may also help to regulate insulin and prevent complications as they decrease oxidative stress.
8. High in magnesium
Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, which is crucial in the production of ATP (i.e. adenosine triphosphate, the body’s energy currency), nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), bones, and teeth. Magnesium also helps with blood circulation and relaxes blood vessels.
9. High in zinc
Zinc is necessary for regulating insulin and maintaining sleep, mood, the cell cycle, eye health, skin condition, and the senses of taste and smell. It is particularly important for men, as zinc supports prostate health. Pumpkin seed extracts may even treat benign prostatic hyperplasia.
10. High in tryptophan
Proteins are made by amino acids, and tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted into serotonin. Serotonin is eventually converted into melatonin—the “sleep hormone”. If you have trouble falling asleep, consider eating some pumpkin seeds a few hours before sleeping, in order to increase melatonin production.
Instead of drinking pumpkin spiced lattes, incorporate pumpkin into your diet without all of the refined ingredients. Here are some healthy recipes that can be eaten all year round:
Pumpkin Coconut Curry
Sauté one finely minced onion in a soup pan with melted coconut oil, chopped celery, and carrots until all the vegetables are softened. Mix in 2tbsp of your favorite curry powder and season with salt and pepper. Add a can of pumpkin puree, ½ cup of coconut milk, and ½ cup of vegetable stock. Cook until the soup is warmed through, and garnish with roasted cashews, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of coconut milk. Serve over rice or vegetables.
Blend 1 banana,? cup of pumpkin puree, 1tsp of cinnamon, and 1tbsp of pecan/almond butter until smooth. Add a teaspoon of maple syrup for an extra hint of sweetness, if desired.
While you can make your own pasta dough, save time by buying pasta sheets or dumpling wrappers. Place a spoonful of pumpkin puree in the center of the dough, and use an egg wash to seal both sides of the dough together. Cook in salted, boiling water until the ravioli floats, and serve with your favorite sauce.