If you’re like most people, the first thing that probably comes to your mind after hearing the word ‘pumpkin’ is Halloween. But pumpkin isn’t just for Halloween. This versatile squash doesn’t only make a good addition to breads, pies, risottos and other delicious treats – it also comes with a number of healthy perks that will sure get you craving for more.Why would you want to add pumpkin to your diet? Here are the amazing reasons.
1. It’s low in calories
Unless you turn it into a pumpkin pie, a cup of this golden orange gourd only has 30 calories and almost no fat. This makes pumpkin a good snacking choice for dieters. Well, even the standard pumpkin pie is lower in calories than other pies and desserts!
2. It promotes weight loss
Pumpkin promotes weight loss not just because it is low in calories. Another reason is that it’s also high in fibre, containing 3 grams per one cup. This naturally creamy, sweet, delicious and low-calorie gourd will keep you feeling full for longer.
3. It’s high in beta-carotene
The reason why pumpkin has rich, golden orange colour is because it is loaded with beta-carotene – a powerful antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is known to boost the immune system and reduce free radical damage to cells. These healthy orange pigments are also found in carrots.
4. It strengthens the immune system
Pumpkin is a solid source of vitamin C which is known to play a key role in strengthening the body’s defence system against infections, viral diseases, and other illnesses. In fact, it exceeds the recommended vitamin C intake by 20 per cent or 11 mg.
5. It promotes eye health
Did you know that a cup of cooked mashed pumpkin contains over 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A? That makes this gourd exceptionally good for eye health, according to the National Institutes of Health in the US.
6. It promotes heart health
Nuts and seeds, including those of pumpkins, according to a study by St. Paul’s Hospital and University of British Columbia, can boost heart health by supplying the body with phytosterols – plant-based chemicals that have the ability to reduce bad cholesterol. Aside from this, pumpkin is also rich in magnesium (the nutrient most people have trouble getting enough of). Magnesium boosts heart health by helping nerves and muscle relax, and improving blood flow. It also promotes bone health.
7. It lowers the risk of cancer
Because of its antioxidant and antigenotoxic properties, beta-carotene has been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer. According to the National Institutes of Health, food sources of beta-carotene seem to help more than a supplement.
8. It may help prevent prostate enlargement
A study carried out in Budapest, Hungary revealed that men with benign enlarged prostate (BPH) who were treated with pumpkin seed oil extract experienced a stronger urine flow and reduced frequency of night-time urination. It is believed that pumpkin seed oil extract may prevent prostate enlargement by blocking testosterone – the hormone that triggers prostate growth.
9. It promotes healthy skin
Pumpkin is rich in wrinkle-fighting plant pigments called carotenoids that help neutralise free radicals in the skin, leaving it soft, firm, glowing and young-looking. In addition to vitamins C and A, it also has vitamin E, that help cleanse the skin. Here’s a tip: most of the skin-saving antioxidants are found in the pulp!
10. It promotes well-being
Pumpkin seeds are rich in L-tryptophan – the amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin, which in return, promotes mood and may help reduce symptoms of depression.
11. It boosts energy
A cup of cooked pumpkin has more of the energy-boosting nutrient potassium than banana. A little extra of potassium helps the body restores its balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout. It also boosts muscle function.
Now that you know the health benefits of pumpkin, it’s time to make it a part of your diet. Don’t forget to get some the next time you shop in the grocery or by them at your local farmer’s market. And when you get home, try making your own version of healthy pumpkin pie, or some pumpkin soup. Yum! I just have, and it smells and tastes great.