Why pumpkin is a healthy choice for all seasons
By Anastasia Climan Oct 05, 2023 • 5 min
Despite its festive reputation, pumpkin isn’t just for carving or filling pies. This versatile squash is a nutritional powerhouse with health benefits you can enjoy throughout the year.
Pumpkin is nutrient-dense, delivering lots of nutrition in a low-calorie package. Here are a few reasons to keep pumpkin on the menu all year ’round.
1. Supports a healthy immune system
Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that gives pumpkin its signature orange hue. In the body, beta-carotene gets converted into vitamin A, where it has several key functions. One cup of pumpkin offers more than double the daily requirement for vitamin A, making it one of the top sources of this vital nutrient.
Vitamin A plays an important role in the immune system. For example, it helps the immune system produce antibodies to fight against disease. Without enough vitamin A, the white blood cells of the immune system don’t function properly and may not be as efficient at defending the body against infections.
2. Promotes good moods
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of the essential amino acid tryptophan. The body uses tryptophan to make melatonin, which helps control the sleep-wake cycle. In addition, tryptophan helps produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays key roles in appetite, pain and mood regulation.
While pumpkin seeds alone should not be a substitute for professional mental health treatment, their beneficial effects on sleep and mood can support the path to health and happiness.
3. Aids in heart health
It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are crucial for heart health. Research shows that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet can have a lower risk of developing heart disease. In a study by the American Heart Association, higher intakes of fruits and veggies were associated with lower rates of heart disease and stroke. Not only did fruits and veggies reduce the risk of getting these diseases, but also lowered the risk of heart-related deaths.
There are many reasons why pumpkin is good for your heart: It provides potassium, which reduces blood pressure, and it’s also low in calories and high in fiber. One cup provides 3 grams of fiber and just 50 calories, helping you feel full and maintain a healthy weight. Fiber also regulates blood sugar and lowers cholesterol, two important factors for heart disease. In addition, pumpkin seeds are filled with heart-healthy vitamins, minerals and fats.
Easy ways to add pumpkin to your diet
The health benefits of pumpkin extend far beyond its seasonal appeal. If you don’t want to wrangle a fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin and dried pumpkin seeds are easy ways to keep pumpkin on hand for regular use in your kitchen.
Scoop pumpkin puree into baked goods, oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt parfaits. You can also experiment with savory pumpkin dishes by adding it to soups and stews. Regardless of how it’s prepared, it’s always a good time for pumpkin.
Published October 2023.