Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. While commonly viewed as a vegetable, pumpkin is scientifically a fruit, as it contains seeds. That said, it’s nutritionally more similar to vegetables than fruits. Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits. Here are 5 impressive nutrition and health benefits of pumpkin.
1. Packs Vitamins That May Boost Immunity
Pumpkin is loaded with nutrients that can boost your immune system. For one, it’s high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections. Conversely, people with a vitamin A deficiency can have a weaker immune system. Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more effectively and make wounds heal faster. Aside from the two vitamins mentioned above, pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin E, iron and folate — all of which have been shown to aid the immune system as well.
2. Vitamin A, Lutein and Zeaxanthin May Protect Your Eyesight
It’s quite common for eyesight to diminish with age. Fortunately, eating the right nutrients can lower your risk of sight loss. Pumpkin is plentiful in nutrients that have been linked to strong eyesight as your body ages. For instance, its beta-carotene content provides your body with necessary vitamin A. Research shows that vitamin A deficiency is a very common cause of blindness. In an analysis of 22 studies, scientists discovered that people with higher intakes of beta-carotene had a significantly lower risk of cataracts, a common cause of blindness. Pumpkin is also one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds linked to lower risks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Additionally, it contains good amounts of vitamins C and E, which function as antioxidants and may prevent free radicals from damaging your eye cells.
3. Nutrient Density and Low Calorie Count May Promote Weight Loss
Pumpkin is considered a nutrient-dense food. That means it’s incredibly low in calories despite being packed with nutrients. In fact, pumpkin clocks in at under 50 calories per cup (245 grams) and consists of about 94% of water. Simply put, pumpkin is a weight-loss friendly food because you can consume more of it than other carb sources — such as rice and potatoes — but still take in fewer calories. What’s more, pumpkin is a good source of fiber, which can help curb your appetite.
4. Antioxidant Content May Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Cancer is a serious illness in which cells grow abnormally. Cancer cells produce free radicals to help them multiply rapidly. Pumpkin is high in carotenoids, which are compounds that can function as antioxidants. This allows them to neutralize free radicals, which may protect against certain cancers. For instance, an analysis of 13 studies showed that people with higher intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had significantly lower risks of stomach cancers. Similarly, many other human studies have found that individuals with higher intakes of carotenoids have lower risks of throat, pancreas, breast and other cancers. However, scientists aren’t sure if the carotenoids themselves or other factors — such as lifestyle habits of those who consume diets rich in carotenoids — are responsible for these lowered risks.
5. Contains Compounds That Promote Healthy Skin
Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients that are great for your skin. For one, it’s high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. In fact, one cup (245 grams) of cooked pumpkin packs 245% of the RDI for vitamin A. Studies show that carotenoids like beta-carotene can act as a natural sunblock. Once ingested, carotenoids are transported to various organs including your skin. Here, they help protect skin cells against damage from harmful UV rays. Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which is essential for healthy skin. Your body needs this vitamin to make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy. Moreover, pumpkins contain lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E and many more antioxidants that have been shown to boost your skin’s defenses against UV rays.
The Bottom Line
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkin is incredibly healthy. What’s more, its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food. Its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health. Pumpkin is very versatile and easy to add to your diet in both sweet and savory dishes. Try incorporating pumpkin into your diet today to reap its health benefits.