From pumpkin pie, to pumpkin spiced latte, to pumpkin soup – the options for pumpkin recipes are endless. There’s also a plethora of health benefits that come along with all that goodness that pumpkin has to offer. Since this is the popular time of year for nature’s most popular squash, we thought we would tell you all that the pumpkin has to offer!
The Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
Don’t just assume that the only thing a pumpkin is good for is a little bit of pie or cutting holes in and sticking a candle inside it. The health benefits of pumpkin are many and largely due in part to its polysaccharides (sugars), oils, sterols (type of steroid), phytochemicals (antioxidants), and proteins. Aside from the fruit itself, pumpkin seeds are valued for their high protein content, vitamins, and linoleic acid (2).
Perhaps the best part of pumpkin is the relatively dense nutrient that pumpkin contains compared to its overall calorie content. In just one cup of pumpkin puree there are only 30 calories (8g of carbohydrates and 1g of protein) making it an ideal food for diabetics and even non-diabetics. It also contains 171% of your vitamin A intake, 17% of your vitamin C intake, healthy levels of vitamin-E and vitamin-B, a healthy amount of potassium, and other minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron (3).
What about those pumpkin seeds?
Well, about one ounce of the seeds (which equals around 85 seeds) is only roughly 126 calories. The breakdown is about 15g carbohydrates, 5g healthy fats, and 5g of protein. Just like the pumpkin fruit itself, the seeds also contain significant doses of magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper (3).
Antioxidant Benefits Of Pumpkin
How about those antioxidant benefits of pumpkin? The effects of oxidative stress on the body is huge and can lead to various diseases such as cancer and heart disease – which is a great reason why everyone should be taking antioxidants to combat free radicals inside the body. Pumpkin seeds have a high content of vitamin E – a potent antioxidant (2). Some research has found that in mice, pumpkin polysaccharides can reduce certain types of tumours related to their anti-oxidant activity(2).
Anti-Diabetic Benefits Of Pumpkin
There is a possibility that pumpkin helps to regulate blood sugar levels – in fact hollistic practitioners recommend pumpkin extrat for that specific purpose. The research out there is pretty small in regards to this but here’s what they found: in temporary high blood sugar states and in animals with mild diabetes, pumpkin did have blood sugar lowering effects. For diabetic induced rabbits they found the same thing. The good news: in some patients with mild type-2 diabetes pumpkin was found to have some short-term blood sugar lowering levels (2). What they found in rats: researchers found that with diabetic induced rats pumpkin helped to increase insulin output from the pancreas and decrease blood sugar levels (2). While further research is needed, it’s definitely safe to say that there is some potential benefit to the pumpkin fruit in terms of diabetes.
Heart Benefits Of Pumpkin
Pumpkin also has hypotensive effects in terms of angiotensin I-converting enzyme-inhibitory activities. This means it has the potential to help you regulate your blood pressure.
Anti-Carcinogenic Benefits Of Pumpkin
Let’s go back to those antioxidants – they help to prevent oxidation when can decrease the risk of cancer. It goes without saying that fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of antioxidants and in turn that’s associated with a lower risk of cancer (2). Pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin seed oil was found to have high sources of carotenid contents which lowers the risk for cancer (2). Also, the fruit itself has been linked to a lower risk for prostate cancer (2). Also, proteins from mature pumpkin seeds were found to limit the growth of certain melonoma cells. In short, the affects of pumpkin on several different types of cancer cells apear to slow cell growth.
Anti-Microbial Benefits Of Pumpkin
What the heck are microbes? Well…microorganisms such as bacteria. For example, ones that line our gut and help with digestion. Health problems related to imbalances in the flora in the gut can be a huge issue for some people. For some of us, we may not even realize that the problem is there. As far as pumpkin is concerned, there have been quite a few broad spectrum anti-microbial components that have been isolated from pumpkin.
This list may not mean anything to you but pumpkin oil inhibits: acenetobacter baumanii, aeromonas veronii biogroup sobria, candida albicans, enterococcus faecalis, escherichia coli, klebsiella pneumoniae, pseudomonas aeruginosa, salmonella enterica, serratia marcescens, and staphylococcus aureus – some of these normal bacteria found in the human gut where if they get out of hand, can irritate the gut lining causing inflammation.
A protein from pumpkin seeds was found to have an inhibitory effect on botrytis cinerea, fusarium oxysporum, and myocosphaerella arachidicola. In short, pumpkin and pumpkin seed products have been found to be effective in inhibiting certain types of bacteria, fungi (including candida albicans – a common skin infection), and yeasts (2).
Other Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Pumpkin: Pumpkin contains a good source of anti-inflammatory substances which may help with certain conditions such as heart disease and arthritis. In fact, pumpkin seed oil significantly reduced arthritis in rats (2).
Research found that pumpkin seed supplementation reduced the risk of bladder stones and that the oil found in pumpkin seeds can reduce bladder pressure, increase bladder muscle tone, and reduce urethral pressure (2).
Good For Depression?
Pumpkin contains the compound tryptophan (the same stuff found in turkey) which raises the levels of serotonin (the feel good hormone) in the brain (2).
Summing Up The Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
Pumpkins are healthy because:
1. They are nutrient dense and low in calories
2. They are a great source of naturally occurring vitamins and antioxidants.
3. They help regulate gut bacteria
4. Pumpkin containing food products just taste amazing – just keep an eye out for processed pumpkin with too much added sugar.
1. Yang X, Zhao Y, Lv Y. Chemical Composition and Antioxidant Activity of an Acidic Polysaccharide Extracted from Cucurbita moschata Duchesne ex Poiret. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 May 19.
2. Jain S., Prasad GB., Tomar R., Yadav H., Yadav M. Medicinal and Biological Potential Of Pumpkin: An Updated Review. Nutritional Research Reviews. 2010. Vol 23. Issue 2. Pp 184-190.
3. N.p. Nutrition Data. Conde’ Nast. 2013. Web. 9 Nov. 2013.