You might think of Jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin spiced lattes when pumpkins are mentioned, but their benefits extend much further than Halloween decorations.
An incredibly nutritious and versatile fruit (not a vegetable, due to its seed content), it makes a great addition to your diet, especially during the autumn, when it is in season and therefore at its cheapest.
Pumpkin is a very low-calorie food; each cup of cooked pumpkin (245 grams) contains just 49 calories! This means that pumpkin can easily fit into a calorie controlled diet and aid weight loss, whilst still providing plenty of nutrients.
As it is a good source of fibre, it could also help to control your appetite: fibre adds bulk without adding calories, and absorbs water in the stomach, helping you to stay full for longer when dieting.
There are hundreds of recipes that use pumpkin, from pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie to pumpkin pasties (as sold in the Harry Potter books). It can be boiled, mashed or pureed, roasted or fried, and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
If you want to buy a canned pumpkin product, check the label first, as many brands have added sugars that add calories. Pumpkin seeds also make a great and nutritious snack.
Often overlooked and thrown out when hollowing out a Jack-o’-lantern, the seeds are actually incredibly nutritious, and can be a very tasty snack if prepared correctly.
For best results when using them fresh from the pumpkin, clean them and pat dry, mix with flavourings (salt etc.) and a little oil, then roast for about 10 minutes in a pre-heated oven (gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C). If cleaning the seeds sounds like too much effort, they can be purchased ready-to-eat in most supermarkets.
They are great sources of both zinc and magnesium, as well as a source of healthy unsaturated fats including Alpha Linoleic Acid. The seeds also provide some other minerals that are often overlooked, such as phosphorous, manganese, copper, and vitamin K.
The high fibre content of pumpkin flesh confers more benefits than just mild appetite suppression. It also helps to keep your digestive system regular, preventing and helping to treat constipation, and could help to keep blood sugar levels in check. Diets high in fibre have also been linked with a reduced chance of colorectal cancers developing.
There are a long list of antioxidants that are found in pumpkin, including carotenoids. Antioxidants can neutralise free radicals, which could cause a state of oxidative stress if left unchecked.
There are numerous studies linking high dietary levels of carotenoids to decreased chances of some cancers, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Remember that the science is far from conclusive, and not enough research has been done in the form of human-based trials yet to know exactly the scope or extent of this health benefit.
Beta carotene is the antioxidant that gives pumpkin is vibrant colour. Beta Carotene is also the reason behind the colour of other orange fruits and vegetables, especially carrots. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, an incredibly useful vitamin that the body needs daily for ideal function.
Vitamin A is a bit of a superstar of nutrients, as it plays numerous roles in the body.
One huge role is immunity; people with a vitamin A deficiency have weaker immune systems and are more susceptible to illness, and ensuring you eat consume enough Vitamin A can help your body to fight infections and viruses.
Pumpkin also packs a decent amount of vitamin C, which is famously known for helping to fight off colds, but has also been shown to increase white blood cell production, speed up wound healing, and generally boost the immune system.
Pumpkin is a source of Lutein and Zeaxanthin, two compounds that have been linked with preventing a decline in eyesight in old age, especially “age-related macular degeneration” and cataracts.
One meta-analysis, which analysed the combined results of 22 studies, linked a good intake of Beta-Carotene with a reduced incidence of cataracts, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.