Tis’ the season for pumpkin everything and that is actually a very good thing. Pumpkin contains many protective nutritional qualities.
Fun Facts about pumpkin:
- Pumpkin belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes gourds, squash, cucumbers and watermelons.
- There are many shades and sizes of pumpkins, some are best for decorations and some are sweeter and best for pies and baking.
- In other parts of the world, winter and summer squash are referred to as pumpkins.
- When cooking or baking with pumpkin, used freshly made or canned pumpkin. Avoid pumpkin pie mix, which is filled with sugar.
- The fiber content of pumpkin helps you to feel full, promotes digestive health, weight control and prevents constipation.
- Pumpkin if left uncut, should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two months.
Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin:
- Low in calories per serving
- Approximately 90% water
- Fiber rich
- Antioxidants: may help to prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.
- Vitamin A / provitamin A from Carotenoids (Beta-carotene)
- B Vitamins: (folate, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin C: antioxidant support
- Potassium: provides a positive effect on blood pressure.
Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant found in pumpkin, giving pumpkin its orange color. In the body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements calls beta-carotene “by far the most important provitamin A carotenoid.” Current evidence on the nutritional benefits of beta-carotene suggests it may help protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, fight inflammation, delay aging/body degeneration and improve skin appearance. Multiple studies have concluded that a diet rich in plant food such as pumpkin, decrease the risk factors of chronic disease such as obesity and decreases overall mortality.
Many Americans consume an average of 15 grams of fiber daily, falling short of the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber daily required to maintain health and a properly functioning GI tract. Adding pumpkin to your diet is a great way to increase daily fiber intake. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, aids in smooth digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.
What about the Seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are high in protein (7 grams per 1-oz), contain omega-6-fatty acids, and contain the amino acid tryptophan which helps the body produce mood-elevating serotonin. Pumpkin seeds contain fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamin K.
Pumpkin Seed Oil:
Researchers also have looked into the potential health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, which is high in zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium.The main benefit of pumpkin seed oil is in the protective nutritional qualities benefiting the urinary and reproductive areas of the body, especially in the prostate.
Disease Fighting Properties:
Vegetables are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and phyochemicals which play a vital role in the prevention of chronic disease. Researches state that the nutrition profile (carotenoids, pectin, oleic and linolenic acids) of pumpkin helps to improve glycemic and insulin response, decrease systemic inflammation and decrease cardiovascular disease risk factors. The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds and pulp are excellent for helping the absorption of glucose into the tissues and intestines, as well as balancing levels of liver glucose.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains
1.76 g of protein
2.7 g of fiber
0.17 g of fat
0 g of cholesterol
12.01 g of carbohydrate
Recommended daily allowance (RDA) of:
200%: Vitamin A
19%: Vitamin C
10%: Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper, Manganese
5%: Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic acid, Niacin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus
How to Incorporate Pumpkin into your Diet:
Pumpkin may be incorporated into desserts, soups, smoothies, salads and even made into a pumpkin butter to be used as a spread or substituted for butter in baking.
Tip: Remember the only ingredient in canned pumpkin should be pumpkin.
Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.