Halloween quickly came and went once again, bringing a flood of children looking for more treats than tricks. If you’re like most, you may only really invite pumpkins into your home during this time of year. Whether you’re putting a pumpkin on your doorstep or into a pie crust, it’s time to see this fruit as more than a once-a-year purchase.
Why eat more pumpkin?
One thing is for sure — pumpkins aren’t just for carving or pie making. This seasonal fruit offers health-boosting properties. It is also a delicious ingredient for soup, muffins or even pancakes. Eating more pumpkin will benefit you in a number of ways, including the following.
1. It offers health-boosting antioxidants
Pumpkins are packed with carotenoids, helping to protect your cells against free radical damage. Like carrots, this orange fruit is rich in beta-carotene, as well as alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. After consuming beta-carotene, for instance, your body converts it into vitamin A, all while boosting overall immune function.
Based on the antioxidant content of pumpkins, many companies are now utilizing its properties to make skin care products. Yes, that’s right — pumpkin can be applied topically, helping to increase cell turnover, resulting in smoother, healthier-looking skin. Of course, due to various antioxidants, pumpkin can also address signs of aging.
2. It protects your eyes
As mentioned, pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene and when consumed, you benefit from a safe source of vitamin A. In fact, when you consume just one cup of pumpkin, you benefit from nearly twice your recommended daily intake. This important vitamin helps to promote optimal vision health, reducing your risk of degenerative eye conditions, while also promoting healthy teeth and bones.
3. It boosts your fiber intake
Fiber is critical for optimal health, supporting normal bowel movements, blood sugar and even cholesterol levels. We all know fiber supports a healthy digestive system, but did you know it can also support your weight loss journey? When consuming a fiber-rich diet, you will curb hunger and avoid overeating — try this easy-to-make “power-up” smoothie.
4. It protects your ticker
If one thing is for certain, we need to look after our hearts — an organ that beats over 100,000 times a day. Aside from beneficial antioxidants and fiber, which both contribute to positive heart health, pumpkin seeds are packed with essential fats, phytosterols, magnesium and zinc.
Within one study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers studied the effects of pumpkin seed oil on hypertension. Researchers induced high arterial blood pressure in rats before treating them with pumpkin seed oil. Researchers concluded that pumpkin seed oil treatment not only normalized blood pressure levels but also protected the heart and aorta.
5. It improves sperm quality
Whether you’re a male or a wife hoping to start your adorable little family, pumpkin seeds may help improve sperm quality. Infertility has been linked to low zinc levels, but luckily pumpkin seeds are rich in this mineral. They may also support healthy testosterone levels and in turn, this combined effect benefits fertility.
To ensure you’re eating enough pumpkin seeds, make your own trail mix. This is a great snack to bring to work, helping to fuel both your body and mind. You can also incorporate pumpkin seeds into your favorite bread or muffin recipe with ease. If you’d like an even simpler recipe, try these roasted pumpkin seeds with lemon pepper, garlic and cayenne. Mmm, golden and crispy!
6. It’s great for expecting mommies
When you first find out you’re pregnant, you begin researching every aspect of your expected pregnancy, including what you should and should not eat. Pumpkin and its seeds can both be highly beneficial when expecting, protecting both the mother and fetus.
Rich in protein, zinc, vitamin A, folate and other key vitamins, pumpkin meat and seeds can support both you and your growing baby’s needs. Being high in fiber, pumpkin will also help reduce one of the more common symptoms of pregnancy: dreaded constipation.
7. It reduces inflammation
Offering anti-inflammatory benefits, pumpkin can help improve symptoms of arthritis. As reported in one animal study published in Pharmacological Research, researchers found pumpkin seed oil to be equally effective when compared to the pharmaceutical drug indomethacin, without the associated side effects. Whether you have a toothache or an inflamed throat, adding pumpkin to your regular diet can help reduce painful symptoms.
8. It boosts your magnesium consumption
It is estimated that up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium, a mineral that is used by every organ in your body. Although magnesium plays an essential role in bone and heart health, it is also found in more than 300 different enzymes. From producing energy to activating nerves and muscles, magnesium is essential.
When consuming just one ounce of pumpkin seeds, you benefit from nearly 40 percent of your daily recommended intake, just like that. Considering a deficiency can lead to anything from anxiety disorders to osteoporosis, pumpkin seeds are an easy and effective way to ensure you’re getting enough. Cooked spinach and dark chocolate are also great sources of magnesium.
9. It protects your prostate
Using pumpkin seeds to treat an enlarged prostate and urinary tract complaints is an old remedy — one that is making a comeback. Considering over half of American men over the age of 50 suffer from issues related to an enlarged prostate, it’s important to protect yourself when you’re young.
Based on their high concentration of phytosterols, it’s believed that these compounds can shrink the prostate. Pumpkin seeds also offer chemicals which prevent the transformation of testosterone into DHT, a hormone that is often associated with an enlarged prostate, as well as male pattern baldness.
10. It offers a source of healthy fats
Fats are not the enemy. I repeat, fats are not the enemy. We’re living in a society where low- and zero-fat foods have taken over the supermarket shelves, leading to increased health issues. Your body and brain need fat in order to function. And when consuming pumpkin seeds, you benefit from the good kind — plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
11. It’s a versatile ingredient
Perhaps most importantly, pumpkin can be used in so many ways, resulting in a delicious meal or snack. That’s what it’s all about — making healthy foods more enjoyable so that they are enjoyed day in and day out. If you like to cook, be creative and showcase pumpkin as the tasty and versatile ingredient it is.
Perfect Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Perfect for those chillier nights, this recipe is healthy, delicious and easy!
- 1 small pumpkin
- 1 onion
- 3 to 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1.5 cups of vegetable broth
- 1.5 cups of coconut milk
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- Pinch of sea salt and black pepper
- Olive oil (to brush on pumpkin flesh)
- Pumpkin seeds and fresh rosemary (to garnish)
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F before cutting your pumpkin in half. Spoon out the strings and seeds, saving the seeds for roasting.
2. Using olive oil, brush the flesh of the pumpkin and place the halves skin-side up on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately one hour — a fork should be able to pierce the skin. When cooked, allow to cool.
3. On your stovetop, saute garlic and onions until translucent — then add turmeric to toast slightly.
4. Add all remaining ingredients (pumpkin flesh, broth, coconut milk, salt and pepper) and bring to a simmer.
5. Once incorporated, use an emulsion blender to create a smoother consistency and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. When ready to serve, garnish with rosemary and pumpkin seeds. If you’d like to roast your own, simply toss seeds in olive oil and salt, baking for around 40 to 45 minutes, or until crispy and golden.
— Krista Hillis