The Power of the Pumpkin: Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Pumpkins are the most popular gourd during the month of October, but did you know that they are good for more than carving? Pumpkins are a delicious source of nutrients that have many health benefits. Today we’re exploring the power of the pumpkin and examining several of the health benefits of pumpkins.
Pumpkins are often mistaken for vegetables but they are technically fruits and more specifically berries. They are in the Cucurbitaceae family and the Cucubita genus that also includes summer and winter squash. Pumpkins are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene that is converted into Vitamin A in the body. Additionally, pumpkins have a healthy dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, fiber and plant sterols.
Pumpkins and Antioxidants
Beta-carotene gives pumpkins their bright orange hue, much like carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and has tremendous benefits for the entire body, including staving off illness and disease and supporting eye health. Beta-carotene and other antioxidants found in pumpkins help improve immune strength by combating free radicals that threaten the integrity of bodily cells. Free radicals enter the body through a variety of external factors and can lead to cellular mutagenic diseases such as cancer. Pumpkins are particularly deft at fighting off prostate and colon cancer. They also help with normal immune function to help protect and heal the body against common infections, colds and coughs that occur during the winter season.
Furthermore, powerful antioxidants like those found in pumpkins help keep cells functioning at their optimum capacity. This supports anti-aging both internally and externally to slow the natural aging process that leads to disease and an aged look. Due to their high concentration of Vitamin A, pumpkins are also great for eye health and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Pumpkins and Fiber
Pumpkins are often underestimated as an excellent source of low calorie fiber. Pumpkins contain 3 grams of fiber and only 49 calories per cup, which is a much better ratio than most fiber-rich foods. Fiber is an important aspect of our diet because it helps satiate the body for longer without needing extra food and therefore calories. That makes pumpkin a great choice for weight loss and weigh management, and can help reduce symptoms of diabetes because it aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Pumpkins and Phytosterols
The seeds of pumpkins contain heart healthy plant sterols that are known to reduce bad HDL cholesterol levels that lead to clogged arteries. When plaque builds up in arteries, we have a higher risk of heart conditions including cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. Additionally, Vitamin C and potassium in pumpkins help reduce blood pressure to prevent hypertension.
Pumpkin seeds also contain the amino acid tryptophan that is responsible for the release of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. So eating pumpkins this fall can put you in a good mood too.
Pumpkins and Potassium
Potassium is an essential mineral that is considered an electrolyte. Our bodies lose electrolytes through sweat and other excretions so it is necessary to replace them through our diet and supplements. Pumpkins are a terrific source of potassium and make a great post-workout snack, not only to replenish electrolytes, but also to give you a boost of energy.
With many sweet and savory possibilities, it’s easy to make pumpkin a healthy part of your fall diet!
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