Fall is definitely the season when all things pumpkin are celebrated. But there’s more to this highly nutritional fall fruit (yes pumpkin is a fruit!) than Halloween, Pumpkin pie and Pumpkin spice lattes.
So, what exactly is a pumpkin? The orange fruit we all know as Mother Nature's Jack-o'-lantern is part of the Cucurbitaceae or squash family. Inside the pumpkin you’ll find seeds and its flesh, both offering healthy benefits.
7 Top Health Benefits of Pumpkin
- Pumpkin seeds are good for post workout snacking. Added to a salad, stirred into yogurt or simply on their own - pumpkin seeds add a nutritious kick. The seeds provide zinc and protein, which are two nutrients that are important for recovery.
- Protection for your liver. Ensuring you have fruits and veggies and antioxidant-rich choices like pumpkin in your diet can help support proper liver function. That's important because a key role of your liver is breaking down fat, protein and carbohydrates and removing harmful compounds from the bloodstream.
- It’s heart healthy. Because pumpkin contains fibre, potassium and vitamin C, this low-sodium fruit boosts healthy blood pressure. One cup of pumpkin, (cooked or raw,) contains nearly three grams of fibre. The recommended intake for adults is 25 to 38 grams daily.
- Helps keep you regular and promotes healthy cholesterol. The fibre in pumpkin promotes healthy digestion while also serving as a sponge, mopping up harmful LDL cholesterol lowering your risk of heart disease. Not to mention, the zinc in pumpkin seeds also boosts proper digestion.
- Supports weight control. The high-water content as well as the fibre helps you feel full. That means less cravings for unhealthy snacks. By the way, one cup of pumpkin contains only 83 calories.
- Helps manage blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range helps you to avoid conditions like obesity, liver damage and diabetes. One cup of pumpkin contains just 8 grams of sugar.
- Supports your immune system. Antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as zinc help fight diseases which ultimately improves your immune system.
Still not convinced? This vibrant orange squash is one of the "best-known sources of beta-carotene.” This incredible antioxidant gives orange fruits and vegetables their colour. More importantly, beta carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body lowering the risk of developing some types of cancer - like prostate and colon. It also protects against asthma and heart disease, and a clinical trial in 2019 conducted by the National Eye Institute found high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene suggested a significant reduction in the risk of age-related eye disorders
Spicing up your diet with a little bit of pumpkin
Of course, we know there's pumpkin in some Thanksgiving pie but it’s also a great ingredient in pasta, soups, smoothies and frittatas. And, yes, roasted pumpkin seeds are an easy-to-make, delicious snack that's good for you.
Start with fresh pumpkin or if you opt for canned, make sure it doesn't have added sugars. Look for the can that has one ingredient only - pumpkin. You can also make your own puree.
Here are a few fun and easy recipes on how to prepare and eat pumpkin to add a healthy hit of pumpkin to your life.
Pets like Pumpkin too!
Most dog owners know pumpkin (we're talking 100% pure pumpkin without anything added) does the tummy good. It’s probably because it adds some healthy fibre, along with vitamins, to their diet. There are, however, pros and cons to adding pumpkin to your pet’s diet. FYI, you can buy a can of pure pumpkin at the grocery store. Of course, many vet clinics will sell pumpkin but you'll probably pay a bit more.
“Pumpkin isn’t a be-all and end-all remedy for cats and dogs with gastrointestinal issues, but it is a reasonably harmless thing to try. If this has you thinking, “Hmm, maybe I’ll give canned pumpkin a try,” I urge you to consult with your veterinarian before doing so. In some cases, added fiber could cause more harm than good. All this being said, your veterinarian might suggest canned pumpkin be used in the following ways for some dogs - (for diarrhea, constipation or weight loss.)” veterinarian, Dr. Nancy Kay
“Oh, My Gourd” Pumpkin Facts
- Every continent, other than Antarctica, grows pumpkins;
- The largest pumpkin ever, was grown in Belgium and weighed over 2,600 pounds;
- While the largest pumpkin pie ever cooked was 20 feet in diameter and weighed nearly 3700 lbs;
- Each pumpkin has roughly 500 seeds and take between 90 and 120 days to grow;
- Pumpkins were used as markers in the 100-metre swim race in the 1896 Olympics in Athens Greece;
- There are more than 50 different varieties of pumpkin and they range in colours from red to yellow to green to even white – not just orange;
- Long ago, pumpkins were believed to cure snakebites and help remove freckles.
The bottom line shows that pumpkins are an easy and versatile way to add nutritional value to your diet. Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, give pumpkin a try in your diet and reap all of its health benefits.