3 Potential Health Benefits of Pumpkins Many people enjoy fall traditions like carving pumpkins, roasting the seeds for a nutritious snack, and displaying the faces lit by candles on your porch. However, these vibrant gourds are not just for display, and their nutritional value extends beyond pumpkin seeds alone.
The pulp, or flesh, of a pumpkin transports numerous nutrients. According to Joan Salge Blake, RD, a clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University, “Pumpkin is a powerhouse of potassium and fiber, two nutrients that the majority of adults are failing to get enough of in their diets.”
Although pumpkin is technically a squash, baked goods aren’t the only way to enjoy the fruit, such as in muffins, pies, and breads. Cubes of pumpkin can be roasted and served with main dishes, or the cooked flesh can be added to soups, stews, curries, salads, and chilis. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), fresh pumpkin tastes best during the fall and winter seasons.
Here are three good reasons to start eating pumpkin today, no matter how you like to eat it.
1. Pumpkin flesh, which is high in pectin and fiber, can help with digestion Dietary fiber is a necessary nutrient that is primarily associated with fueling the digestive tract and preventing constipation, but its benefits go far beyond that. According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber promotes longevity, supports cardiovascular and metabolic health, and improves gut health. Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient, despite the numerous benefits of fiber.
2. Pumpkin has a lot of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. You don’t have to eat bananas to get enough potassium. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one cup of canned plain pumpkin contains 505 milligrams (mg) of this nutrient, which can help lower blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. By causing the kidneys to excrete excess sodium, a diet high in potassium helps people with or at risk of hypertension lower their blood pressure, according to Blake.
Despite its importance as a nutrient, Americans aren’t getting enough potassium. Since Americans consistently consume less than the recommended amount of potassium, the National Institutes of Health consider it a nutrient of public health concern.
3. A red-orange pigment called beta-carotene, which the human body converts to antioxidant-rich vitamin A, is responsible for the classic jack-o’-lantern’s infamous orange hue. Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid, a class of pigments found in fruits and vegetables that also act as antioxidants. Beta-carotene gives pumpkin its orange hue and a boost of vitamin A.
According to Volpe, “the potent antioxidant beta-carotene, which supports healthy eyes, skin, and immunity,” is found in abundance in pumpkin. According to the USDA, pumpkin actually has more beta-carotene than many of the foods in your kitchen. Sweet potatoes, carrots, orange bell peppers, and cantaloupe are additional food sources. Notice what they all have in common?