10 [More] Reasons to Obsess Over Pumpkin
It is Fall season! And what better way to celebrate than with beloved pumpkin? Not only do the flavors of pumpkin and its associated products ignite the taste buds, but its health benefits are bursting. Obsess over these uses and benefits of eating pumpkin!
Below depicts the nutritional composition of canned pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. Though each product comes from the same edible pumpkin, the dietary profile of flesh and seeds are significantly different. One thing to notice is the lower calorie content in the canned pumpkin, even when it is four times the amount (compared to the ¼ cup of seeds)! Canned pumpkin is also a rich carbohydrate source while the seeds are high in fat.
*Both adapted from the USDA's National Nutrient Database
Benefits of Eating Pumpkin
1. Promote Weight Loss
The high fiber content of canned pumpkin offers satiation without packing on calories, as one cup offers approximately 7 grams of fiber for only 80 calories. Feeling full at a low calorie cost can help aid in weight loss! Additionally, research suggests high-fiber diets lead to healthy body mass indexes compared to diets lower in fiber.
2. Foster Good Eye Health
Step aside carrots! Pumpkin also contains high amounts vitamin A or beta carotene, the notorious nutrient contributing to proper eye sight. Vitamin A protects the eye's surface and aids in the formation of a valuable eye protein, rhodopsin. In darker lighting, rhodopsin activates and allows the eyes to adjust to the darkness. Night blindness, or difficulty seeing in the dark, is a sign of a vitamin A deficiency. The antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E may also prevent degenerative damage.
3. Protect Your Heart
Heart protection stems from multiple avenues. Firstly, adequate fiber may reduce cholesterol levels that may lessen the risk of heart attack and stroke. High potassium content is also worthy of treating high blood pressure and imperative in controlling the electrical activity of the heart.
4. Reduce Cancer Risk
Mostly related to its beta carotene content, consuming pumpkin may reduce the risk of cancer. Specifically, high beta carotene has shown to reduce the risk of both prostate and colon cancer. Additionally, a diet rich in antioxidants can help fight against cellular damage and cancer development.
5. Strengthened Immune System
Power-packed pumpkin ultimately has the potential to strengthen the immune system. Zinc has a large role in regulating immune function, research indicating it may hold valuable use in treating the common cold.
6. Boost Mood
Don't skip out on the pumpkin seeds - they may increase mood! The seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid used to make serotonin and known as the "feel good" hormone. The triggered brain chemical can initiate a calming effect and may lessen depressive feelings. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, a mineral assisting in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
7. Achieve Adequate Sleep
Serotonin is further converted into melatonin, also known as the "sleep hormone." Adequate levels of melatonin are associated with improved sleep patterns, as the hormone regulates and controls sleep and wake cycles.
8. Combat Fatigue
Though iron is mostly known in red meat products, pumpkin is also a significant source. Iron carries oxygen to the muscles and brain and without it, energy levels can become plummeted. Sufficient intake can combat fatigue and accelerate physical performance.
9. Sharpen Concentration
Also related to iron content, intake of pumpkin may actually increase focus and concentration! Keeping the brain oxygenated can improve mental clarity and diminish brain fog. Zinc also plays a role in neuron communication, nerve cells affecting how memories are formed and learning capabilities.
10. Versatile Incorporation into Foods
As if seeking out pumpkin was not anticipated enough, the health benefits accelerate their appeal! But one of the greatest reasons to obsess over pumpkin is its high versatility - roasted in pieces, pureed into a pulp, or toasted seeds. Roasted pumpkin chunks bulk up meals and casseroles or create side dishes; pumpkin puree can be added to oats, soups, and smoothies; and pumpkin seeds offer crunch to salads and dishes or simply enjoyed as a convenient snack!
Don't miss out on these tasty pumpkin recipes on bistroMD's health library: gluten-free pumpkin pie tartlets, pumpkin pie protein shake, quinoa and pumpkin seed stuffed acorn squash, gluten-free pumpkin bready pudding, and pumpkin curry with shrimp!