Autumn is here, so it’s time for everyone to start experiencing some seasonal pumpkin health benefits! If you haven’t spotted pumpkin-flavored products popping up in stores all over the place yet, just wait – the onslaught is coming.
If you’re craving the taste of this fall-favorite, skip the pumpkin-flavored coffee creamer. Most of those products are filled with sugar and trans fats (among other questionable ingredients). Instead, reach for the real thing, because real pumpkin tastes good – and is good for you!
Here are 5 pumpkin health benefits.
1. Crunch on Some Fiber
Remember when you were a kid and you’d scoop out the “guts” of a pumpkin, clean off the seeds, and roast them? Pumpkin seeds contain about 1.7 grams of dietary fiber per ounce, while mashed pumpkin contains three grams. Fiber makes you feel fuller for longer, thus suppressing cravings and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Also, mashed pumpkin only contains 50 calories.
2. Good for the Eyes
A cup of cubed pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A – twice the recommended daily intake, as a matter of fact. This vitamin promotes good vision, especially in dim light. Vitamin A has also been shown to slow the decline of retinal function in people with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that can cause blindness. Further, vitamin A helps to maintain healthy skin, teeth, and bones.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
People often associate the word “tryptophan” with Thanksgiving turkey, and the way the substance makes you sleepy after the big meal. Pumpkin seeds are rich in this amino acid, which is responsible for helping the body make serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Serotonin not only helps you sleep, it also improves your mood.
4. Prostate Protection
Eating pumpkin – especially the seeds – may be particularly beneficial to men. Pumpkin contains lots of beta-carotene and other antioxidants which have cancer protective properties. Research shows that pumpkin seed oil blocked unhealthy prostate growth in male rats.
Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains 2.75 mg of zinc (approximately 17% of the recommended daily intake for adults), which contributes to male sexual health. A Wayne State University study found that young men who restricted their dietary zinc intake had significantly lower testosterone levels after 20 weeks.
Additionally, zinc is crucial for a healthy immune system.
5. Heart-Healthy Pumpkin Health Benefits
The fiber found in pumpkins can help protect the heart. According to a Harvard study of more than 40,000 male health professionals, those who ate a diet high in fiber were found to have a 40% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate a diet low in fiber.
More recently, Swedish researchers concluded that women who ate a high-fiber diet had a 25% lower risk of heart disease, compared to women who ate a low-fiber diet. Men were found to benefit less.
Pumpkin is also rich in magnesium, which has been shown to benefit blood pressure, and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke. An estimated 80% of Americans are magnesium-deficient (so eat some foods high in magnesium!).
Research also suggests that the benefits of pumpkin seeds expand further since they:
- Are rich in plant-based omega-3 fats
- Have anti-diabetic effects
- Help with the symptoms of menopause
- Help people sleep, thanks to tryptophan
- Provide liver health benefits
- Have anti-inflammatory effects
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.