The Top 8 Health Benefits of Pumpkin
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When you mention pumpkins, the first thing that comes to mind is Halloween, or to be more precise, Jack O’ lanterns. Pumpkin spice lattes would probably be a close second (you can find the vegan recipe here)! It’s time to re-evaluate our attitude towards the fruit. Pumpkins are among the most nutritionally dense of all foods, packed with nutrients, but low in calories. Every part of the pumpkin packs a punch, from the pulp and juice to the leaves and seeds. What’s great about pumpkins is that they are easier to add to a wide range of dishes than they are to carve. So, here are some healthy reasons to add more pumpkin to your diet.
1. Immunity Boost
Pumpkin is an excellent source of both vitamins A and C, which are known to support immune function. Studies have found that vitamin A deficiencies can result in weakened immunity, while vitamin C increases white blood cell production, boosting immune function. Other pumpkin nutrients like iron, folate, and vitamin E are also important for your immunity.
2. Protects Eyesight
While age related deterioration of eyesight is unavoidable, your nutritional choices can delay or lower the risk of vision loss. Pumpkin is one of the best foods to add to your diet for this purpose as its rich in beta-carotene or vitamin A, as well as the organic compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamin A deficiencies have often been linked to vision loss. Moreover, pumpkins are also rich in antioxidants that can protect against vision loss caused by free radical damage.
3. Supports Digestion
Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are good sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber, providing a range of benefits. Fiber aids nutrient absorption, lengthens feelings of satiety, and facilitates bowel movements. By slowing the absorption of carbs and sugars and helping better regulate blood sugar levels, the fiber in pumpkin also offers some protection against diabetes. To add to this, pumpkin’s high-water content also supports healthy bowel movements.
4. Aids Weight Loss
Put simply, pumpkin’s high nutritional density and low-calorie content makes it the perfect weight loss food. As a good source of dietary fiber, pumpkin can also aid weight loss because of its effects on satiety and blood sugar levels. Increased feelings of satiety and stable blood sugar levels can help reduce the likelihood of food cravings, which can otherwise lead to increased snacking and weight gain.
5. Lowers Risk of Chronic Diseases
Protection against the risk of chronic diseases and degenerative conditions is increased through higher antioxidant intake, as studies have clearly demonstrated their protective effects against free radical induced cellular damage. Pumpkins are regarded as a good source of antioxidants, containing carotenoids such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants can increase protection not just against cancer, but also against degenerative eye and brain conditions, sun damage, and more.
6. Improves Skin Health
Carotenoids in pumpkins offer various health benefits, many that we’ve already established, but another is for skin health. Studies suggest that carotenoids can be protective against UV radiation, working like a natural sunblock. In addition, pumpkins are rich in vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for collagen production. Collagen, as you might know, is a structural protein that plays an important role in skin health, improving skin elasticity and reducing wrinkle formation.
7. Supports Muscle Function
Pumpkin gives you a good amount of potassium and magnesium, both of which are essential minerals for healthy muscle function. Deficiencies can increase the risk of muscle cramps and more serious injuries. Potassium also plays an important role in regulating blood pressure. Pumpkin seeds are also notable for their content of amino acids, which are helpful in muscle growth. The seeds can be easily incorporated into your diet with simple snacks like warm roasted pumpkin seeds or as garnishing for homemade Ham and Cheese Pretzel Hot Pockets and salads. Just go easy on pumpkin seeds if you suffer from or are at risk of kidney stones.
8. Boosts Mood
Amino acids are known to play an important role in protein synthesis, muscle health, tissue repair, and nutrient absorption, but they also have an influence on your mood and mental health. Amino acids like tryptophan, which are found in pumpkin seeds, are essential to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. Often described as the happiness hormone, serotonin has a significant influence on mood, contributing to feelings of wellness and happiness.
While pumpkin seeds area easy enough to add to any dish, it isn’t hard to make pumpkin-based dishes either. Some good options include the Ultimate Healthy Pumpkin Pie and Cream of Pumpkin soup. Here’s a recipe for a yummy pumpkin spice yogurt parfait that’s easy to prepare and extremely healthy.
What you need:
- 250g vanilla greek yogurt, in 2 cups
- 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
- ½ tsp pumpkin spice
- 75g graham crackers (crumbs), oats, etc.
- Mix 1 cup of the yogurt with the pumpkin puree and half of the pumpkin spice in a small bowl.
- Mix the other cup of yogurt with the other half of the pumpkin spice in another bowl.
- Layer the vanilla yogurt in a small glass, then add a layer of oats and crackers or granola (you can even use other nuts and seeds). Add the pumpkin yogurt in your next layer, followed by another one of oats and crackers. Top it up with any leftover vanilla yogurt.
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