6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Fall is in the air, which means cozy sweaters, colorful leaves, and — you guessed it! — pumpkin spice everything! Who doesn’t love the flavors of fall and sipping on a hot pumpkin flavored drink or sweet treat? I absolutely love pumpkin!
Did you know that despite being a delicious fall treat, there are many health benefits of pumpkin? It’s true! Pumpkin is one of the most nutrient dense fruits you can eat. It is full of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, folate, potassium, and beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A! Pumpkin is an impressive superfood that is also very delicious.
I have a big surprise for you that I’m so excited to share! However, before I let you in on the surprise, let’s get deeper into the health benefits of pumpkin you may not know.
1. Pumpkin is High in Fiber
We have all at some point wanted to shed a few pounds. The good news is that pumpkin is considered a nutrient-dense food. That means it’s low in calories and packed full of essential vitamins and minerals.
In fact, there are just 49 calories in one cup of cooked pumpkin.1 Additionally, pumpkin is a high-fiber food with 2.7 grams of fiber per cup. Fiber is beneficial for removing “bad” cholesterol, regulating blood glucose levels, and helps you feel full longer.2
What’s more, over 60% of the fiber in pumpkin is soluble fiber, which swells with water in your gut to slow down how quickly your body absorbs glucose in your bloodstream. Soluble fiber also binds to low-density lipoproteins, or LDL cholesterol, and carries it out of your body in waste.3
Eating more soluble fiber can also help you burn fat. In one study, a 10-gram increase in daily soluble fiber intake reduced belly fat by 3.7%.4
The remaining 40% of the fiber in pumpkin is insoluble fiber. It is in the fibrous strings in the flesh. Insoluble fiber is essential for gut health. It regulates bowel movements and promotes a healthy balance of bacteria.5
2. Pumpkin Facilitates Eye Health
Another health benefit of pumpkin is that it supports optimal eye health. For starters, pumpkins are rich in beta carotene. As I mentioned earlier, your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which is important for your eyesight.
One of the most important benefits of vitamin A for your eyesight is that it reduces the risk of macular degeneration, a common eye disorder in people over the age of 50.6 Macular degeneration causes blurred vision, which is the most common sign. The macula is the part of the retina that is responsible for clear vision.
Here’s the good news – a one-cup serving of pumpkin contains 9,875 IUs of vitamin A, which is in the range of optimal amounts per day. I recommend getting 2,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin A per day. So, one cup of pumpkin will get you all of the vitamin A you need for the day to support your eye health.
Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that protect your skin and eyes from UV light exposure. Your body naturally produces these two carotenoids that are found in the macula lutea and acts as natural sunscreen. Adequate lutein and zeaxanthin levels are also associated with reduced risk of age-related eye disease.78
3. Pumpkin Supports Your Skin
Just as pumpkin’s exorbitant Vitamin A levels support eye health, those same pumpkin benefits also apply to your skin. Your liver converts vitamin A into retinol, a natural form of vitamin A that comes from plant and animal sources. Retinol is found in many skin-care products, however most of the retinol found in these products is synthesised and chemically modified. Natural retinol stimulates the production of new skin cells and supports the production of collagen.9
As I just mentioned, pumpkin is high in carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which protects your skin from harmful UV rays.10 While you can’t see UV rays, they go through your skin and can damage it.
Too much sun exposure allows these dangerous UV rays to reach the inner layers of your skin. You probably know this as a sunburn. Besides being extremely painful, sunburns damage your skin cells and cause them to die.
Too much sun exposure can do more than just burn your skin, it can cause early aging, freckles and skin tags, skin cancer, weaken your immune system,and damage your eyes.
4. Pumpkin Supports Your Immune System
Your immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend your body against infection. Each of us has two parts of our immune system: innate and adaptive. Innate immunity is programmed in our genetic material. This part of your immune system naturally activates your white blood cells to go to the site of a cut, for example. In contrast, your adaptive immune system actually learns! It keeps a record of every germ that it has ever defeated, so it can recognize and destroy it if you encounter it again.
Vitamin A is essential to promote a healthy immune system response because it supports your body’s natural defenses. This includes the mucous barriers in your eyes and gut that traps bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A also facilitates the production of white blood cells, which fights off pathogens in your bloodstream.11
What’s more, pumpkin is also packed with vitamin C, which is so important for optimal health and your immune system. Vitamin C supports a healthy inflammatory response and fights free radicals.
5. Pumpkin is an Antioxidant
Due to the high amounts of carotenoids in pumpkin, one of the health benefits of pumpkin is that it is an antioxidant.
Carotenoids are compounds that function as antioxidants, which fight free radicals that cause oxidative damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that have an uneven number of electrons. They roam your body searching for a spare electron to steal, damaging healthy tissue.
Cancer cells produce free radicals, which helps them multiply rapidly. Antioxidant molecules donate an electron to a free radical, making them less reactive.12
However, if there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, free radicals start damaging your cells, proteins, and DNA. This process is known as oxidative stress, which can increase your risk of heart disease, developing autoimmune disease, and cancer.
6. Pumpkin Supports Heart Health
Research has found oxidative stress to also be linked with a higher risk of heart disease. As I mentioned, antioxidant-rich foods such as pumpkin are free radical scavengers, which can help lower your risk of heart disease.
I told you that pumpkin is a nutrient-dense food. One of those nutrients is potassium, which along with vitamin C, folate, and fiber, promotes heart health.
Potassium is one of the most important minerals for your body. It is also an electrolyte, which conducts electrical impulses throughout the body and regulates blood pressure, water balance, muscle contractions, digestion, your heart beat, and nerve impulses.13 One cup of pumpkin contains 564 milligrams of potassium!
Pumpkin is also a solid source of vitamin C, containing 11.5 milligrams in one cup. Vitamin C has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides – both risk factors for heart disease.14
One Pumpkin Treat to Avoid
I absolutely love eating pumpkin. Yet, I don’t love all the inflammatory and toxic ingredients that are found in one popular fall pumpkin treat: Pumpkin spice lattes found in most coffee shops.
For starters, these do not contain any real pumpkin. They are also very high in sugar, contain dairy, caffeine, artificial flavors, carrageenan, and preservatives. Don’t worry! There is a way to enjoy pumpkin spiced lattes without all of the toxic and inflammatory ingredients. I am about to share my favorite alternative, which is also packed full of protein.
How to Add Pumpkin To Your Diet
The health benefits of pumpkin are plentiful and it’s so easy to add pumpkin to your diet, even if you are following The Myers Way®! One of my favorite ways is to add pumpkin seeds to my salad. This Organic Green Salad with Fresh Apricots and Pumpkin Seeds is a great light lunch.
One of my favorite treats for the fall is pumpkin pie! This No-Bake Pumpkin Pie is a great substitute for the traditional pumpkin pies and it’s made with real pumpkin and uses natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and stevia.
And as an alternative to your favorite coffee shop’s pumpkin spice latte, you can enjoy an AIP-friendly Pumpkin Spice Latte free of the excess sugar, dairy, caffeine, and other ingredients found in your local coffee shop. And the best part of this recipe is that one of the ingredients is REAL pumpkin, so you can reap all the health benefits of pumpkin and still enjoy this fall treat!
It doesn’t stop there. I promised you a big surprise and I’m excited to tell you that in celebration of fall, I’m re-releasing my limited-edition seasonal flavor of Paleo Protein: Pumpkin Spice!
The Myers Way® Pumpkin Spice Paleo Protein is so versatile you can add it to your favorite pumpkin recipe and ensure you’re getting optimal amounts of protein your body needs! Pumpkin Spice Paleo Protein is rich in high-quality protein with 21 grams per serving. I personally custom formulated Pumpkin Spice Paleo Protein to ensure it was approved for all of The Myers Way® protocols!
I’m so excited for fall and all the delicious pumpkin treats. The health benefits of pumpkin are so incredible, and the best part is that it is so easy to add pumpkin to your diet. And now you can also add a pumpkin spice-flavored protein to your favorite fall food!
- Pumpkin: Nutrition, Benefits and How to Eat. Karri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD. Healthline. 2016.
- 9 reasons to add pumpkin to your diet. Kaela Ketcham. OSF Healthcare. 2020.
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic. 2021.
- Lifestyle factors and 5-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS Family Study. Kristen G. Hariston, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.) Vol. 20 . 2021.
- Soluble and Insoluble Fiber: What’s the Difference?. Amanda Gardner. WebMD. 2015.
- Dry macular degeneration. Mayo Clinic. 2021.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Le Ma, et al. The British journal of nutrition vol. 107. 2012.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of cataract: the Melbourne visual impairment project. Hien T V Vu. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science vol. 47. 2006.
- Safety Evaluation and Anti-wrinkle Effects of Retinoids on Skin. Bae-Hwan Kim. Toxicological Research. 2010.
- β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Wilhelm Stahl and Helmut Sies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition vol. 96. 2012.
- Increased risk of respiratory disease and diarrhea in children with preexisting mild vitamin A deficiency. A. Sommer et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition vol. 40. 1984.
- Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. V. Lobo et al. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2010.
- Facts About Potassium. Stephanie Pappas. Live Science. 2015.
- Vitamin C supplementation lowers serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides: a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials. Mar P. McRae. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine vol. 7. 2008.
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