Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It’s native to North America and became particularly popular around local seasonal festivals (1). It’s now enjoyed all around the world.
While commonly viewed as a vegetable, pumpkin is scientifically categorised as a fruit because it contains seeds. However, it is nutritionally more similar to vegetables than fruits. It’s probably most popularly consumed in the form of pumpkin soup.
Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits.
Here are some impressive nutrition and health benefits of pumpkin I’ve discovered.
1. Highly Nutritious
Pumpkin has an impressive nutrient profile.
One cup of cooked pumpkin (245 grams) contains (2):
- Calories: 49
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Vitamin A: 245% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 19% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Copper: 11% of the RDI
- Manganese: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin B2: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDI
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate and several B vitamins.
Besides being packed with vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is also relatively low in calories, as it’s 94% water (2).
It’s also very high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body turns into vitamin A.
Moreover, pumpkin seeds aka pepitas are edible, nutritious and linked to numerous health benefits.
2. High Antioxidant Content May Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Diseases
Free radicals are molecules produced by your body’s metabolic process. Though highly unstable, they have useful roles, such as destroying harmful bacteria.
However, excessive free radicals in your body create a state called oxidative stress, which has been linked to chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer (3).
Pumpkins contain antioxidants, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. These can neutralise free radicals, stopping them from damaging your cells (4).
Test-tube and animal studies have shown that these antioxidants protect skin against sun damage and lower the risk of cancer, eye diseases and other conditions (5, 6).
However, keep in mind that more human-based research is needed to make health recommendations.
3. Filled With Vitamins That Help Your Immunity
Pumpkin is loaded with nutrients that can boost your immune system. Firstly, it’s loaded with beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A.
Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections. Conversely, people with a vitamin A deficiency can have a weaker immune system (7, 8, 9).
Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more effectively and make wounds heal faster (10, 11). Also note that although pumpkin is high in Vitamin C, it is vulnerable to heat. Once pumpkin is cooked there isn’t much Vitamin C available.
Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin E, iron and folate. All of which have been shown to aid our immune system (12).
4. Vitamin A, Lutein and Zeaxanthin Might Help Protect Your Eyesight
It’s quite common for eyesight to diminish with age.
Fortunately, eating the right nutrients can lower your risk of sight loss. Pumpkin is plentiful in nutrients that have been linked to strong eyesight as your body ages.
For instance, its beta-carotene content provides your body with necessary vitamin A. Research shows that vitamin A deficiency is a very common cause of blindness (13, 14).
In an analysis of 22 studies, scientists discovered that people with higher intakes of beta-carotene had a significantly lower risk of cataracts, a common cause of blindness (15).
Pumpkin is also one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds linked to lower risks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts (16).
Additionally, it contains good amounts of vitamins C and E, which function as antioxidants and may prevent free radicals from damaging your eye cells.
5. Nutrient Density & Low Calorie Count May Promote Weight Loss
Pumpkin is considered a nutrient-dense food.
That means it’s incredibly low in calories despite being packed with nutrients.
In fact, pumpkin clocks in at under 50 calories per cup (245 grams) and consists of about 94% of water (2).
Simply put, pumpkin is a weight-loss friendly food because you can consume more of it than other carb sources such as rice and potatoes but still take in fewer calories.
What’s more, pumpkin is a good source of fibre, which can help curb your appetite.
6. Antioxidant Content May Lower Your Risk of Cancer
Cancer is a serious illness in which cells grow abnormally.
Cancer cells produce free radicals to help them multiply rapidly (17).
Pumpkin is high in carotenoids, which are compounds that can function as antioxidants. This allows them to neutralise free radicals, which may protect against certain cancers.
For instance, an analysis of 13 studies showed that people with higher intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had significantly lower risks of stomach cancers (18).
Similarly, many other human studies have found that individuals with higher intakes of carotenoids have lower risks of throat, pancreas, breast and other cancers (19, 20, 21).
However, it seems from my research that scientists aren’t sure if the carotenoids themselves or other factors such as lifestyle habits of those who consume diets rich in carotenoids are responsible for these lowered risks.
7. Potassium, Vitamin C and Fibre May Benefit Heart Health
Pumpkin contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your heart health.
It’s high in potassium, vitamin C and fibre, which have been linked to heart benefits.
For instance, studies have shown that people with higher potassium intakes appear to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of strokes two risk factors for heart disease (22, 23).
Pumpkin is also high in antioxidants, which may protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidising. When LDL cholesterol particles oxidise, they can clump along the walls of blood vessels, which can restrict your vessels and raise your risk of heart disease (24, 25).
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkin is incredibly healthy.
What’s more, its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food.
Its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health.
I’ve added it to my diet and find it a great regularly easy to prepare option. Try including pumpkin into your diet today to reap its health benefits!
Here’s my pumpkin soup recipe.