What Are Pumpkins Good For?

Pumpkin Power
Botanical name: Cucurbita

Pumpkins Nutrition Facts

Pumpkins are large, vining plants,1 often associated with fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving2, and belong to the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd, family.3 The four main types are:4

  • Pepo, a smaller type of pumpkin that is best known for being carved into jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween
  • Maxima, the giant variety usually grown to enter pumpkin contests at the county fair
  • Mixta, which are often used as ornamental decorations
  • Moschata, the variety used for making canned pumpkin products

C. pepo is also called sugar pumpkin, and originates from North America. This pumpkin can weigh anywhere from 30 grams to 20 kilograms. Some varieties have smooth surfaces, while others are ribbed or lobed. C. pepo also comes in different colors, such as yellow, orange and green.5

C. maxima, also called mammoth,6 is teardrop shaped or rounded, and varieties come come in pink, light blue and orange.7

The hollow center of a pumpkin comes with dozens of off-white seeds, as many as 500 per fruit,8 attached to a pulpy matter. After cutting your pumpkin in half length-wise, the pulp can be disposed of after saving the seeds (if you desire). Pumpkin seeds are a great source of calcium, protein and omega-3 fatty acids,9 and can be dried and salted for a homemade snack or saved to plant in the spring.

Health Benefits of Pumpkins

The only difference between 100 grams of raw and cooked pumpkin is a 6-calorie increase in the raw form.10,11 So where do the nutrients come from? It's in the vitamins and minerals, including 0.5 grams of fiber and 8,513 IUs of vitamin A.12

Pumpkins also provide vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Smaller but significant amounts of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and iron are present.13

The bright orange color of the pumpkin also hints at the presence of a particularly beneficial phytonutrient: carotene.14 This converts to vitamin A in the body15 for a tremendous punch of antioxidants with the capacity to help reduce the risk of heart disease,16 cancer17 and slow down the signs of aging, such as the formation of wrinkles.18

Vitamin A is also a must for good vision19 and helping to lower the risk of certain cancers.20 Flavonoids such as cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin destroy harmful free radicals.21 Zeaxanthin and lutein in particular, help protect the retina of the eye from macular degeneration.22

Pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty, easy-to-transport snack, but also a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins, with 23 grams of protein, 15 milligrams of iron and 533 calories in every 100-gram serving, but no cholesterol.23 The dietary fiber helps maintain regular waste elimination and helps keep the colon safe from diseases.24

A special bonus in pumpkin seeds is the amino acid tryptophan,25 which, once in the brain, converts into serotonin26 — a nutrient that helps regulate brain function.27 For more on the nutrients found in pumpkin, refer to the table below.

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 26  
Calories from Fat 1  
Total Fat 0 g  
Saturated Fat 0.052 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 1 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 6.5 g  
Dietary Fiber 0.5 g  
Sugar 2.76 g  
Protein 1 g  
Vitamin A 8,513 IU Vitamin C 9 mg
Calcium 21 mg Iron 0.8 mg

Studies Done on Pumpkins

Dietary intake of lycopene and other carotenoids was found to inhibit prostate cancer in studies done on 130 patients with the disease and 274 inpatients without. The prostate cancer risk declined with increasing consumption of lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin — all found in pumpkins. Intake of watermelon, citrus fruits and three vegetables, including pumpkins, was also inversely associated with the prostate cancer risk.28

A University of Massachusetts study on obesity-linked, non-insulin-dependent diabetes and hypertension, higher in North America than anywhere, was linked to dietary changes toward high-calorie foods such as sugar, refined grain flour and sweetened beverages. Pumpkins, beans and maize were looked at for potentials of phenolic phytochemicals and found to have a positive inverse effect on diabetes and hypertension. Pumpkin showed the best overall potential in this regard.29

Pumpkin Healthy Recipes:
Keto-Friendly Aromatic Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

3-pound pie pumpkin, halved, with seeds removed

1 tablespoon ghee

1/2 cup sweet white onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 sprig thyme, leaves only

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup coconut cream

 

 

Procedures:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and fill a casserole dish with 2 cups of water.
  2. Place the pumpkin halves cut-side down into the casserole dish. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserts easily.
  3. Use tongs to remove the pumpkin from the pan and cool on a plate for 10 minutes.
  4. While the pumpkin cools, melt the ghee in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for five minutes. Stir in garlic, sage and thyme. Sauté for three minutes longer or until onions are softened.
  5. Scoop out the cooled pumpkin flesh and add to a stock pot along with the onion/herb mixture. Add the chicken stock and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. (The mixture can also be blended in two batches using a high-speed blender or food processor.)
  6. Warm the soup over medium heat for seven to eight minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with coconut cream.

This recipe makes 5 servings.
(Recipe from Jennafer Ashley of Paleohacks)

Pumpkins Fun Facts

A little known fact about pumpkins is that they aren't vegetables; they’re fruits.30 Grown in America for more than 5,000 years,31 they were an unknown commodity in Europe before Columbus arrived.32

Summary

Chances are if somebody mentions pumpkins, the first thought will be pie or jack-o’-lanterns. However, pumpkins are also wonderful and warming when making soup, salad and casseroles. The list goes on, especially if you're creative.

Pumpkins are related to cucumbers and melons33 and come in large and small varieties.34 The health benefits are amazing because of the combination of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that make this autumn crop so unique.

Not only are pumpkins good for your heart thanks to their vitamin A content,35 but they also contain compounds like lycopene and carotenoids that are known to help diminish cancer cells,36 inhibit diabetes,37 slow down the signs of aging38 and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.39

Pumpkin seeds are great for between-meal nibbling, but even greater in the nutrients department, and can provide a healthy alternative to sugary snacks.



References: