Pumpkin offers major health benefits that go beyond those of other superfoods I’ve come across. Even though pumpkins are seasonal foods, they’re full on flavor and nutrition. You can make pumpkin puree, serve mashed pumpkins with chicken recipes, or add them in your soups. There’s so much to gain from pumpkin as a superfood for a healthier lifestyle.
Pumpkins are characterized by high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E, dietary fiber, thiamin, and folate. They also contain a good amount of dietary zinc and manganese that reduces inflammation and lowers level of neurological damage in healthy individuals. They’re good for heart health, healthy vision, anti-cancer benefits, and for the treatment of high blood pressure conditions.
Other than a Thanksgiving treat, pumpkins are popularly cooked for low-calorie meals. Looking at the way pumpkin benefits the human body, it’s a surprise why you haven’t gotten the most out of it, yet.
1. Carotenoids Present in Pumpkins Act as Powerful Antioxidants for the Body
Carotenoids are a part of organic pigments or fat-soluble pigments that give color to many nutritive plants and fruits including pumpkin and tomatoes. Interestingly, carotenoids play an important role in maintaining long-term health.
Studies show that foods that are high in carotenoids, such as pumpkins, play a role in reducing free radical damage in the body. This is required for a sweeping improvement in the way damaged and healthy cells react to oxidative stress.
Carotenoids, once digested, take form of provitamin A, that is a protective antioxidant for reducing inflammation and excessive oxidants in the body. When there are high amounts of oxidants in the body as opposed to antioxidants, inflammatory symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain, bloating, etc. escalate. (2)
Hence, carotenoids that give the orange color to pumpkins also act as excellent antioxidant protectors to fight inflammatory diseases.
Key Takeaway: Pumpkins are rich in carotenoids that act as natural antioxidants for reducing free radical-induced inflammation in the body. They’re also essential for reducing inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune diseases.
2. Pumpkins Being Good Sources of Vitamin E and Antioxidants Prevent Age-Related Eye Diseases
If you’ve heard that vitamin E can help alleviate eye-related diseases, chances are you’ve heard of the role of antioxidants, namely lutein and zeaxanthin, for healthy vision.
Beyond the natural ways to fight age-related eye diseases including macular degeneration, several studies have been linked to vitamin E and antioxidants for lowering your chances of developing severe eye diseases.
They help prevent and reduce the effects by decreasing inflammation in your eyes, especially the macula and retina. Did you know that lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants are found in your macula, retina, and lens? So you now know they play a very important role for disease prevention. (3,4)
These antioxidants also help alleviate inflammation caused by UV radiation that is harmful sun rays. This plays a major factor in the proliferation of age-related eye diseases.
Key Takeaway: Pumpkins contain good amounts of vitamin E and antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin). They are top nutrients for healthy vision and for the prevention of age-related eye diseases caused by inflammation and oxidative stress in the eyes. Because of its antioxidant properties, pumpkins make a promising superfood for preventing vision loss.
3. Eating Pumpkin Regularly Protects the Body Against Infections
The body’s immune system is hardwired to fight bacteria that cause different types of infections in the body. One such bacterial infection is bacterial gastroenteritis. It is characterized by aggressive inflammation in the stomach and intestines.
Symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and nausea. You may know this infection as “food poisoning.”
The vitamin A nutrients present in pumpkin directs specific immune cells towards the intestines for better stimulation and infection prevention. Without vitamin A nutrients, your gut health is unable to produce nutrients on its own which causes excessive free radical damage.
Vitamins play a significant role, more than you could possibly imagine, in maintaining healthy cells and regulating faster cell repair. They fight autoimmune diseases, inflammatory infections, and bacterial diseases effectively. (5)
Studies suggest that vitamin A triggers the body’s innate immune cells that line the intestines. They trigger a faster immune response and keep bacterial infections well and away from the tissue and bloodstream.
Key Takeaway: Eating foods that are rich in vitamin A, particularly pumpkins, may help symptoms that could lead to bacterial infections such as food poisoning.
4. Increased Niacin Intake Due to Pumpkin May Help Patients with Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the gradual deterioration of the brain’s ability to produce and release dopamine, a neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter is responsible for the proper stimulation of movement, emotion, and communication.
Patients struggling with Parkinson’s disease often look for therapeutic ways to cope with their symptoms. In a recent study conducted by the University of Leicester, intake of niacin or vitamin B3 compound is tied to the therapeutics of the disease. (6)
Niacin helps prevent the deterioration of neurons responsible for repairing brain damage. If the neurons are kept healthy and alive, it improves your chances of fighting symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It also improves your mobility, emotional capabilities, and communicative skills.
Lastly, there’s even a possibility that regular niacin intake prevents DNA damage in the brain cells to prevent other diseases such as brain cancer.
Key Takeaway: Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that gradually takes form in the brain. Hence, an early dietary change is essential for preventing the symptoms and its health risks on the human body. Consuming pumpkins for its high niacin count is essential for preventing mobility and other cognitive responses from declining.
5. Pumpkin is a Powerful Anti-Cancer Food of The Season
Several studies have suggested that nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin B6 play an important role in the prevention and treatment of specific types of cancer.
You’re definitely acquainted with the fact that cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Coupled with medical therapy, a change in lifestyle can dramatically influence your chances of developing cancer or can help prevent health risks from it.
One study focused on the role of vitamin A in treating colon cancer. The concentration of vitamin A intake in your diet has the power to unblock HOXA5 gene which allows cancer cells to grow uncontrollably in the stem cells of the colon. (7)
Another study focused on the role of vitamin B6 in preventing lung cancer. Vitamin B6 is an amino acid that restricts DNA damage and gene mutations that lead to the proliferation of cancer cells in the lungs. This study focused on humans on their basis of vitamin B6 intake. (8)
It is also discovered that vitamin A tackles pancreatic cancer cells, especially those that are too aggressive to treat. They reduce the highly reactive responses of stellate cells that are responsible for spreading cancer cells. They suppress tumor growth and reduce fibrosis levels in the human body. (9)
Key Takeaway: Pumpkin benefits the body in suppressing tumor growth and cancer cell proliferation. It contains nutrients that spur cancer growth and tackle damaged cells from becoming infected.
6. Diets High in Vitamin B6 Lowers Risk of Heart Diseases and Stroke
In a Japanese study conducted on men and women, it was discovered that those who ate high amounts of vitamin B6 in their diet, along with folate, were at a lower risk of developing heart diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases often lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. So public health measures the importance of nutrients such as folate and vitamin B for regulating normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels for preventing the development of chronic illnesses.
This study focused on over 23,000 men and 35,000 women with 14 years of follow-up. Based on this research, they found that vitamin B6 reduces the body’s homocysteine levels. Homocysteine damages the arteries and aggravates more blood clots in the body. This leads to improper blood flow which leads to multiple cardiovascular diseases. (10)
Key Takeaway: A vitamin B-rich diet is essential for preventing heart diseases. Pumpkins contain good amounts of vitamin B6, so they seem to influence blood pressure and cholesterol levels by reducing the effects of homocysteine production in the body.
7. Eating Pumpkins Regularly Positively Affects Physiological Growth
Physiological growth refers to physical and mental growth and development in infants, children, and young adults.
This affects a person’s immune response towards fighting different types of diseases including heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other health risks. Factors such as physical inactivity and unhealthy diet can cause serious problems with long-term effects.
That’s why proper diet and nutrient intake is essential for positively influencing physiological growth in humans. (11)
A recent study suggests that dietary zinc promotes proper physical growth in children and adults. It promotes optimal metabolic function, food absorption, and prevents diseases of zinc deficiency.
The small intestine is responsible for the proper absorption of zinc. This stimulates faster and efficient digestion and gut health. When there’s more digestion of zinc, there’s better physiological response in the body. (12)
Moreover, zinc also affects your reproductive systems, central nervous system, and gastrointestinal system for normal biochemical response.
Key Takeaway: Pumpkins may benefit physiological growth in infants, children, and young adults. Containing dietary zinc, they improve gastrointestinal and digestive health.
8. Dietary Zinc Present in Pumpkins Help Alleviate Oxidative Stress for Healthy Skin
Have you tried eating pumpkins for healthy skin? If so, you know how oxidative stress can affect and destroy healthy skin cells from doing their job. Oxidative stress is caused by free radical damage that are toxic for the body. They’re caused due to excessive oxidation in the body.
As a process, oxidants multiply destroying every healthy cell it touches resulting in inflammation deep inside the cellular level. This not only affects your heart, brain, bones, or your eyes, oxidative stress alters your skin too.
There’s evidence supporting that fact that zinc acts as an antioxidant to fight free radical-induced inflammation in the skin cells. It has positive health benefits against UV rays damage, skin aging, and other harmful genetic and environmental factors.
Key Takeaway: If you want younger looking skin, eating pumpkins for its high zinc and antioxidant content is a healthier option. It protects your cell membranes from inflammation and helps with the breaking of protein nutrients on a cellular level.
9. Eating Pumpkin Helps You Feel Fuller for Longer Hours
Pumpkin is a superfood bursting with many nutrients and flavor, but what you didn’t know about it is that it’s a good fiber food. Fiber foods are good for weight loss and metabolism. If you want to cut down of sugary foods and carbs, a fiber-rich diet is a great way focus of maintaining an optimal weight.
Upping your fiber game with pumpkins allows you to stay fuller for longer hours so you can cut back on foods that are high in salt, carbs, sugar, and fats. Pumpkins contain soluble fiber that help slow down your digestion to promote proper weight control.
If you’re more likely to overeat, fill up on a bowl full of pumpkin and you’ll notice a drastic change in appetite. The fiber nutrients play a major role in releasing acetate, which is a waste product in the body. It regulates proper transformation of acetate through from your gut to your brain which then suppresses your appetite cravings. (15)
This has a direct impact on the way you consume western diets and promote proper weight control.
Key Takeaway: The search for a quick and satisfactory fiber-rich diet is over. Pumpkins contain high amounts of fiber which is good for curbing unhealthy appetite cravings and helps with weight control.
10. Pumpkin Seed Oil Dramatically Affect Hypertension and Blood Pressure
Hypertension is characterized by abnormal blood pressure levels and high cholesterol levels in the human body. The total number of people suffering from hypertension is increasing rapidly, with more patients experiencing heart diseases and stroke.
Major factors causing hypertension include unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking. Foods that are high in sodium also lead to raised blood pressure levels.
To combat the effects of hypertension, a modern lifestyle change is eminent. It helps avoid long-term complications due to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Pumpkin seed oil contains phytoestrogens that prevent high systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (16)
Moreover, the vitamin C, potassium, and fiber content present in pumpkins also help alleviating blood clotting and restricting blood flow to and from the arteries.
Key Takeaway: Pumpkins help lowering high blood pressure levels. Being a good source of low sodium and low cholesterol nutrients, including antioxidants, pumpkins prevent aggressive inflammation in the bloodstream. They promote better blood pressure level and decrease the level of sodium in the body which leads to hypertension.
11. Pumpkin is Important for Preventing Severe Migraine Headaches
Migraines are characterized by a severe pulsing or throbbing sensation on either the left or right side of your head. It can last for hours or days depending upon its intensity. People with major migraine headaches often struggle with feelings of nausea, sensitivity to sound and light, and vomiting. (17)
A recent study on finding the link between certain vitamin compounds and cognitive health found that vitamin B2 or riboflavin plays an important role in reducing migraine headaches.
Pumpkins contain a very good amount of riboflavin that help patients cope with all the health risks that come with migraines. They affect how long the migraine will last and the intensity of the headache. (18)
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin aids the nervous system for faster recovery and stimulation. It even works on the cellular level to fight free radical damage and energy production. So upping your pumpkin intake for this healthy nutrient is essential.
Key Takeaway: A healthy nutrient and antioxidant, riboflavin shows a significant improvement in protecting your nervous system and brain cells from migraine headaches.
12. Increased Intake of Tryptophan Levels in the Body Helps You Sleep Better
If you didn’t already know, several studies have linked the importance of serotonin on mental health. Increased, but moderate levels of serotonin can help combat depression in patients with early depressive symptoms.
Depression can often cause other mental and physical disorders such as coronary heart diseases, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal diseases. So it’s important to maintain normal serotonin levels in the brain to stimulate better physical responses. (19)
One of the most serious health risks of depression is insomnia, that is lack of sleep. It lowers mood, emotional stability, and directly attacks your body’s immune system.
Tryptophan, which pumpkins are great sources of, promote normal serotonin levels in the human brain. It directly affects sleeping patterns and cognitive health in ways unimaginable.
Compared with antidepressants, eating pumpkins for its natural tryptophan nutrient is a healthier alternative coupled with physical activity. What’s more, there’s enough evidence supporting the fact that low serotonin levels in body indicate low tryptophan levels that often leads to insomnia and depression. (20)
Key Takeaway: Consuming pumpkin in small amounts on a daily basis may help combat cognitive health problems surfacing from lack of sleep and mood swings. Low serotonin levels deeply affect the human brain, leading to serious mental health diseases including depression.
13. Pumpkins Also Serve as Anti-Diabetic Dietary Foods
Pumpkins have been shown to have powerful anti-diabetic properties. Due to its high hypoglycaemic content, pumpkins help regulate normal insulin levels.
They also contain phytochemicals including phenolic acid and other proteins that help regulate normal insulin levels in the body.
A study conducted on diabetic patients determined that a pumpkin intake can help reduce impaired fasting glycaemia disorder in individuals with a higher diabetic range. (21)
Also, the benefits of pumpkin juice alleviate high blood glucose levels and control insulin levels down to normal ranges required for a healthy lifestyle. Coupled with pumpkin’s fiber content, the importance of its anti-diabetic properties help decrease insulin sensitivity and prevent the risk of weight gain that most diabetic patients struggle with.
Key Takeaway: Pumpkins may provide more health benefits for patients with diabetes than those who don’t consume any. In both animal and human studies, pumpkin’s hypoglycaemic properties played an important role in curbing and preventing diabetic symptoms such as high glucose levels, obesity, and abnormal insulin production.
What To Look Forward To
Now you know why pumpkins have such a great potential for a variety of health conditions. They’re delicious and full of nutrients to help you stay active and healthy. Being a nutrition-booster, pumpkins are great ingredients to include in your meals. To make pumpkin more refreshing and savory than it is when eaten uncooked, combine them in soups, pastas, risottos, or even cakes.
You can always finish a bowl full of pumpkin soup three times a week, but it’s even better when you cook them in your daily meals, isn’t it?
There’s so much you can do with so little and this is just the beginning. To make hearty pumpkin recipes yourself, read on to learn how to cook the best pumpkin-rich meals for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! They’re great for quick meal recipes and help you shake things up while staying healthy and productive.
1. Pumpkin Risotto
This pumpkin risotto is just the thing for guilt-free eating, so you can spend quality time indoors.
4 cups - broth, vegetable or bone
1 cup - pumpkin puree
2 tbsp - butter, unsalted
1 - minced shallot
1 tsp - cooking salt
1 tsp - thyme, chopped
1 1/2 cup - risotto rice
1 tsp - vinegar
1/2 cup - parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup - parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp - nutmeg
1 cup - cheese, goat
1/2 cup - cranberries, dried
Black pepper to taste
Combine vegetable or bone stock with pumpkin puree on medium-high heat in a saucepan.
Heat butter and mix well with shallots and salt. Cook for 3 minutes. Combine with risotto rice and cook for a few minutes more.
Add vinegar and pumpkin stock to the mixture and stir until smooth. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is evenly cooked.
Add parmesan cheese, parsley, and nutmeg. Garnish with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
2. Pumpkin Soup
A modern take on classic comfort food for the quintessential food fanatic.
2 tsp - coconut oil
3 - minced garlic cloves
2 tsp - red curry paste, Thai
2 cups - broth, vegetable
2 cans - pumpkin puree
1 can - coconut milk
2 tbsp - maple syrup
2 tbsp - lemon juice
1 1/4 tsp - cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup - scallions, chopped
In a soup pot, combine oil and garlic cook until fragrant. Add Thai red curry paste and vegetable broth.
Combine with pumpkin puree, milk, syrup, lemon juice, and cooking salt. Cook until evenly blended. Cook on high heat stirring continuously. Add chopped scallions and cilantro to serve fresh.
3. Pumpkin Hummus
Ever heard of pumpkin hummus? This delicious 15-minute recipe will leave you amazed.
1 - pumpkin
4 tbsp - lime juice
1 - pressed garlic clove
5 tbsp - hulled tahini
1 tbsp - hulled tahini
1/2 tsp - cooking salt
1/4 tsp - chili powder
2 tsp - chili oil
Olive oil to taste
Coriander leaves to taste
Black sesame seeds to taste
White sesame seeds to taste
Bake pumpkin pieces in a 425 degrees preheated oven for 30 minutes. Blend in a process with tahini, chili powder, salt, and lime juice.
Transfer hummus in a bowl and garnish with olive oil, chili oil, herbs, and sesame seeds. Serve with bread.
4. Pumpkin Fries with Parmesan
Try this crunchy and nutritious baked pumpkin fries to go with fresh parmesan cheese. Perfect for entertaining!
1 - pumpkin, small
2 tbsp - cornstarch
2 tsp - olive oil
1 tsp - paprika
1 tsp - garlic powder
2 tbsp - parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup - parsley, minced
1/2 tsp - sea salt, coarse
Using a vegetable peeler, slice pumpkin pieces into 1/4 inch fries. Soak fries in cold water for 30 minutes or overnight.
Drain fries with paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Add cornstarch and shake well.
Transfer fries to a bowl and mix with olive oil, garlic powder, and paprika. Place fries on a baking sheet.
Bake in a 425 degrees preheated oven for 7.5 minutes on each side.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine cheese, parsley, and coarse sea salt. Top over baked fries and serve fresh.
5. Cinnamon and Pumpkin Rolls
Your search for the ultimate pumpkin and cinnamon rolls has finally come to an end.
1 pack - crescent rolls
1/2 cup - fresh pumpkin puree
1 tsp - pumpkin spice
1/3 cup - brown sugar
3 ounce - cream cheese
1 1/2 tbsp - butter
2 tsp - vanilla extract
1 cup - sugar, powdered
1 tbsp - milk
Make 8 crescent rolls with crescent dough. Coat each crescent roll with pumpkin puree. Top with brown sugar and pumpkin spice.
Roll each crescent roll over the pumpkin mixture and cut each in 8 slices.
Place on a baking sheet, cut side facing down. Bake in a 350 degrees preheated oven for 22-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix butter, vanilla extract, cream cheese, sugar, and milk in a bowl.
Serve freshly baked cinnamon and pumpkin rolls with cream cheese frosting.
6. Pumpkin Fritters with Parmesan
Do pumpkins in a whole new way with this fritters recipe served with savory chili sauce or your favorite kind of dip!
1 1/4 cups - pumpkin, shredded
4 tbsp - all-purpose flour
1 - egg
2 tbsp - milk
1/4 cup - parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tsp - baking powder
1/4 tsp - salt
Ground black pepper to taste
Sweet chili sauce to taste
Combine oil, pumpkin, milk, cheese, egg, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and pepper in a pan. Cook on medium-high heat until evenly combined.
Fry 1 tbsp of pumpkin mixture in another frying pan until golden brown. Drain oil on dry paper towels. Serve fresh with Thai sweet chili sauce to taste.
7. Pumpkin Chocolate Cake
Who doesn’t cherish tea time? You know you’ll want to make this chocolate chip and pumpkin cake recipe for this evening.
1/3 cup - all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp - baking powder
1 1/4 cup - whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp - baking soda
2 tsp - pumpkin spice
1/4 tsp - salt
2 - eggs
1 can - pumpkin puree
1/2 cup - olive oil or avocado oil or canola oil
1/2 cup - maple syrup
2 tsp - vanilla extract
3/4 cup - chocolate chips
Combine both types of flour, baking powder and soda, pumpkin spice, and salt in a bowl. Add eggs, oil, maple syrup, pumpkin, and vanilla extract stirring continuously. Lastly, add chocolate chips and stir a few times more.
Transfer mixture in a baking loaf pan sprayed with oil. Bake in a 350 degrees preheated oven for 60 minutes. Set aside to cool. Serve fresh.
8. Cheesy Pumpkin Pasta
The easiest comfort food to make your restaurant-style dinner recipes come to life.
12 ounces - penne pasta
1 - diced onion
3 - minced garlic cloves
1 cup - fresh pumpkin puree
4 cups - broth, vegetable
1/4 tsp - red pepper
1/4 tsp - cooking salt
1/8 tsp - pepper
1/8 tsp - nutmeg
2 tbsp - butter
4 ounces - cheese cubes
Fresh parsley, chopped
Combine all ingredients except butter and cheese cubes in a deep dish and simmer for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked evenly.
Add cheese cubes and butter and stir continuously until cheese is bubbling. Serve with salt, pepper, and freshly chopped parsley.
Wrapping It Up
One of the main reasons why nutritionists encourage more pumpkin is because of its immune-enhancing and mental health boosting benefits. Incorporating pumpkins in your diet is very simple with an easy lifestyle change. We have highlight some quick, easy, and delicious recipes for you try out this season with pumpkin as the star ingredient.
I love how nutritious pumpkins can be to boost your mood, promote healthy vision, and increase your prostate health. If you want a healthy heart and a good night’s sleep, pumpkin should become your best friend. Not to forget, pumpkin seeds are also incredibly nutritious; plus, you can bake them too to add in your meals. This article will help you get on the right path towards achieving your set health goals this year. Don’t choose to give up on something you aren’t aware of.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.