Pumpkins are an age-old tradition of Halloween and iconic symbol of fall. But don’t overlook pumpkins as a source of nutrition. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin A and fiber, and low in calories.
Raw pumpkin has only 15 calories per 1/2 cup, and is full of iron, zinc, and fiber. It’s high in vitamin C and beta carotene. Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, substances that may help prevent the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Canned pumpkin has a similar nutrient profile with slightly less fiber than fresh, but more bioavailable beta carotene due to heat used in the canning process. And don’t forget the seeds: Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Following are the ways that pumpkin can benefit your health:
1. Cut Cancer Risk
Like other orange vegetables and fruits, the sweet potato, the carrot and the butternut squash pumpkins boast the antioxidant beta-carotene, which may play a role in cancer prevention, according to the National Cancer Institute. Food sources of beta-carotene seem to help more than a supplement, according to the NIH. And the plant sterols in pumpkin seeds have also been linked to fighting off certain cancers.
2. Reduce Cholesterol
Nuts and seeds, including those of pumpkins, are naturally rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols that have been shown in studies to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
3. Sharpen Eyesight
A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which aids vision, particularly in dim light, according to the National Institutes of Health. Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids, the compounds that give the gourd their bright orange color, including beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of vitamin A for additional eye protection.
4. Weight Loss
Pumpkin is an often-overlooked source of fiber, but with three grams per one-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories.
A fiber-rich diet seems to help people eat less, and thereby shed pounds.
5. Pumpkin Seeds Can Boost Your Mood
Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, the famed ingredient in turkey that many think brings on the need for that post-Thanksgiving feast snooze. While experts agree that it’s likely the overeating rather than the tryptophan lulling you to sleep, the amino acid is important in production of serotonin, one of the major players when it comes to our mood. A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds may help your outlook stay bright.