Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin beer… the list goes on with what pumpkin gets added to. With 80 percent of the pumpkin crop available during October, it’s likely that you have had something with pumpkin in it and it’s only October 3! But that’s OK, because not only is pumpkin a very versatile fruit (that’s right, it’s a fruit), it also packs some powerful health perks.
Here are seven reasons it’s OK to be totally obsessed with this orange superfood.
1. Better Vision
If all you see is pumpkin, it could be because pumpkin contains a whopping 245% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A! Vitamin A plays an important role in keeping your eyes healthy. It helps protect the cornea (the surface of the eye) and keeping the eyes healthy. Vitamin A also appears to play a role in decreasing the risk of macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss among older adults. It also helps with night vision and seeing in dim light.
This pumpkin-harvest-rice looks like the perfect dinner!
2. Manage Your Weight
One-cup of mashed pumpkin provides you with three grams of fiber and only 49 calories. So not only do you feel fuller longer but fiber helps keep your gastrointestinal system happy. Similar to other high-fiber, low-calorie foods, pumpkin takes longer for your system to process and digest it. Fiber is not only good for weight management but is also good for your heart.
3. Regulate Biochemical Functions
One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium (an important mineral for normal body functions). Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems. Cofactors are required for biological activity to happen and magnesium helps regulate blood pressure, control blood glucose levels, and helps make muscles and nerves function properly.
Try roasting pumpkin seeds with spices or create a sweet treat by tossing them with a little cinnamon and brown sugar.
4. Sleep Better and Feel Better
Pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and we must consume essential ones in our diets since our bodies cannot produce them on their own. Tryptophan helps make niacin and serotonin and balances certain hormones (like serotonin) that induce sleep and fight anxiety. Not only can tryptophan help you sleep more soundly, but it’s also been shown to be a natural mood booster and help decrease depression.
5. Builds the Immune System and Reduces Inflammation
We know that beta-carotene is the reason pumpkins are orange but the beta-carotene is also what helps ward off harmful bacteria and keeps the immune system strong and healthy. It’s also the carotenoids that are reducing inflammation in the body. Just one-half-cup of pumpkin provides more than 100 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of beta- and alpha- carotene.
Combine the beta-carotene with the other nutrients that pumpkins store, like vitamin C, vitamin E, and iron, and you’ve got powerful protection against infection. Since it’s cold and flu season, it’s a great time to flood your body with these beta-carotenes. Try this pumpkin crockpot chili!
6. Post-work Fuel
Pumpkins are a great choice after a workout since they are starchy and contain both potassium and magnesium. Pumpkins even beat bananas when it comes to potassium and have 564 milligrams (16% of daily recommended value) of potassium!
Why does potassium help post-workout? A lack of potassium and magnesium can contribute to muscle cramps and spasms because potassium and magnesium are electrolytes that are responsible for maintaining pH levels and water balances in your body. Sweating and high body temperatures cause your body to use magnesium and potassium so it’s important to replenish these electrolytes. Why not do it with a pumpkin smoothie?!
7. Healthy Skin
Whether you eat it or apply it to your skin, pumpkin’s carotenoids help neutralize free radicals in the skin, keeping them from damaging your skin cells. Thank you vitamin C and E for encouraging collagen production and promoting a healthy, glowing complexion. Plus, pumpkin is full of water and helps hydrate the cells.
Happy Pumpkin Season!