6 surprising health benefits of pumpkin
When you think about pumpkins, your mind will probably turn to pumpkin patches, carving jack-o-lanterns, and similar autumn images. But have you considered cooking with pumpkin? Pumpkins are actually a great source of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.
Pumpkin offers many health benefits. It is good for the eyes, immune system, digestive system, heart, and can contribute to weight loss. Start collecting recipes with pumpkin—you can use these nutritious gourds from the inside out.
Pumpkin is orange-colored because of the high amount of beta-carotene it contains. When we eat pumpkins, the beta-carotene is transformed into Vitamin A. This vitamin supports eye health. One cup of canned pumpkin contains 250% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A.
In addition to beta-carotene, pumpkins contain Vitamin C, zinc, copper, and Vitamin E that, when combined, lessen your risk of age-related macular degeneration, a condition of the eyes that can lead to blindness. Also found in pumpkin are lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that assist the eyes when filtering out high-energy wavelengths of light that can harm the eyes.
The same Vitamins A, C, and E that keep your eyes healthy also contribute to a healthy immune system. These vitamins help protect you from cancer and heart disease and assist in fighting less serious diseases and healing damaged cells.
Pumpkin is also rich in potassium. This supports your immune system as it builds itself up and strengthens itself against illnesses ranging in severity from the common cold to severe disease.
If you’re interested in eating heart-healthy foods, you should look for items that are low in fat, salt, and sugar, but contain a lot of fiber. Pumpkin meets all these requirements! In a half-cup serving of canned pumpkin, there is little to no fat or salt and no added sugar.
When it comes to reducing your chance of heart disease, fibrous and potassium-rich foods are the way to go. Pumpkin is a great option to maintain low blood pressure and a healthy heart and to avoid cardiovascular disease.
Better weight loss
Two characteristics of pumpkin make it a great food to aid in weight loss efforts: it’s very low in calories, and it’s extremely filling.
Pumpkin is often used in desserts, so it’s natural to assume that it is a fattening food. However, few of those calories come from the pumpkin itself. Pumpkin is 90% water! One cup of canned pumpkin only has 83 calories.
Many healthy foods leave you feeling hungry, but pumpkin is a different story. Its high fiber content makes healthy meals more filling and satisfying. Eating pumpkin may help you avoid overeating without the heavy fat content of an unhealthy meal.
Fresh pumpkin is one of your best dietary options. If it’s out of season or you don’t have access to it, canned pumpkin is a great alternative. Read the label before you buy to ensure you’re not buying pumpkin pie filling by accident. Pumpkin pie filling is loaded with sugars and syrups that take away from the health benefits of pumpkin.
Pumpkin is a nutrient-dense food. Nutrient-dense means that it’s low calories but extremely high in healthy vitamins and minerals. When you eat it, you don’t have to take in a lot of calories in order to earn the health benefits.
Cooking with pumpkin
Cooking with pumpkin can be easy. It works in sweet or savory foods, and it can be used as a substitute for a number of common ingredients:
Swap equal amounts of pumpkin puree for oil. If a recipe demands one cup of oil, use one cup of pumpkin puree instead.
Use pumpkin puree in place of butter. Multiply the amount of butter needed by .75; if you’re supposed to use one cup of butter, use .75 cups (3/4 cups) of pumpkin puree instead.
Replace eggs with pumpkin puree. For each egg required, use .25 cups (1/4 of cups) of pumpkin puree. If a recipe calls for four eggs, use one cup of pumpkin puree.
Remember to harvest the pumpkin seeds! The seeds are full of magnesium, zinc, fiber, and more to lower blood pressure and establish healthy bones. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds holds just under half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium.
Start collecting recipes with pumpkin in them! It’s never too late to benefit from delicious, healthy pumpkin.
Medicare.org: "The Health Benefits of Pumpkin."
Northwestern Medicine: "Pick Pumpkin for Better Health."
OSF Healthcare: "9 reasons to add pumpkin to your diet."
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