It’s pumpkin season. And if your only experiences with this cold-weather squash have been in the form of a Jack O’ lantern, piece of pie or cup of flavored coffee it’s time to change that.
Because this nutrient-dense fall veggie is a tasty addition to soups, salads, desserts and more. And it makes a great side dish, too.
I’ll have some suggestions on how you can use pumpkin in your own meals in just a few moments. But first, let’s take a quick look at what makes pumpkin so good for you.
Put healthy pumpkin on your fall menu
Pumpkin is full of healthy fiber and antioxidants, and loaded with nutrients you need including…
- Beta-carotene (Vitamin A)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
Which means eating more of this delicious vegetable could help you get, and stay, healthy.
1. Offers cancer protection:
Pumpkins are one the best sources of beta-carotene you can get your hands on. Your body converts this valuable nutrient into vitamin A, and it has a whole range of health benefits, including putting up a fight against cancer.
Experts say a diet rich in beta carotene could help protect men against prostate cancer. A study published in the journal Molecular Cancer Research found beta carotene suppresses prostate tumors. Which means the nutrient could help halt the progression of the disease.1
And research has shown that beta carotene, and its carotenoid cousin zeaxanthin, could significantly decrease the risk for polyps and colon cancer in some folks.2
Plus pumpkin’s high fiber content could help reduce your risk of colon cancer.
2. Boosts heart health:
If you want to protect your heart health, pumpkin is a terrific choice. It’s rich in heart-friendly fiber, potassium, beta carotene and vitamin C.
Experts say foods rich in beta carotene, such as healthy pumpkin, can offer protection against heart disease.
And the potassium in pumpkin could help you fight off high blood pressure. In fact, according to a recent study keeping track of how much potassium you are getting in your diet is nearly as important as monitoring your junk sodium levels.3
Plus, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found potassium could also help significantly lower your risk of stroke.4
Research has linked low vitamin C levels to a higher risk of dying from heart disease. And the vitamin C you’ll find in pumpkin can help improve the lining of your blood vessels, potentially improving your cholesterol levels.5
3. Reduce diabetes risk:
Healthy pumpkin is perfect for anyone concerned about blood sugar. In fact, it may help you reduce your risk for diabetes.
According to experts, the flesh of this fall favorite helps your body do a better job of absorbing glucose.6 As a natural “hypoglycemic,” it shuttles more sugar out of your bloodstream and into your tissues where it’s burned for energy, or stored.
Pumpkins high fiber content slows the rate of sugar absorption into your blood steam. While lab studies show the vegetable could help balance the glucose levels in your liver, too.7
And the pumpkin benefits don’t end there.
- Fiber promotes regular bowel movements and better digestion
- Vitamin C and beta carotene boost immunities, and vitamin A helps build white blood cells
- Antioxidants can help protect your eyes against damage
- Potassium can help ward off muscle loss and support bone mineral density
Put more healthy pumpkin on your fall and winter menu
Ready to start eating more healthy pumpkin?
Both roasted pumpkin and pumpkin puree are a great way to do that. You can make both from scratch, using the small round pumpkins you find in the produce aisle in the grocery store.
(Click here for an easy to follow recipe for roasted pumpkin or pumpkin puree.)
Chunks of pumpkin make a great addition to your favorite soups or stews. Serve roasted pumpkin as a hot side dish or cool addition to a salad.
And fresh pumpkin puree can take the place of part, or even all, of the oil and butter in most baking recipes from cakes to muffins. Plus it tastes terrific stirred into smoothies, yogurt and hot steel-cut oatmeal.
1. “Associations between dietary salt, potassium and blood pressure in South African adults: WHO SAGE Wave 2 Salt & Tobacco,” Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017 Sep;27(9):784-791
2. “Meta‐Analysis of Potassium Intake and the Risk of Stroke,” J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Oct; 5(10)
3. “Vitamin C and Heart Health: A Review Based on Findings from Epidemiologic Studies,” Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Aug; 17(8): 1328
4. “Mitochondrial β-Carotene 9′,10′ Oxygenase Modulates Prostate Cancer Growth via NF-κB Inhibition: A Lycopene-Independent Function,” Mol Cancer Res. 2016 Oct;14(10):966-975
5. “Inverse associations between serum concentrations of zeaxanthin and other carotenoids and colorectal neoplasm in Japanese,” Int J Clin Oncol. 2014 Feb;19(1):87-97
6.”The hypoglycaemic effect of pumpkins as anti-diabetic and functional medicines,” Food Research International, Volume 44, Issue 4, May 2011, Pages 862-867
7. “Anti-diabetic effects of pumpkin and its components, trigonelline and nicotinic acid, on Goto-Kakizaki rats,” Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 May;73(5):1033-41