If you’re a bonafide foodie like myself, chances are you look forward to pumpkin season all year round (and possibly eat it all year round too!) Pumpkin is a food most everyone associates with cozy fall breakfasts, hearty soups and stews, and indulgent seasonal desserts. Pumpkin isn’t just for fall though. It’s an awesome food to consume year-round for a variety of health benefits.
Pumpkin is a unique squash that has certain properties that make it stand out above other squashes. In fact, before we started using pumpkin in our dishes, Native Americans used pumpkin as both a medicinal aid and as a food. Pumpkin can be bought canned, fresh, or even in frozen form in some health food stores. You can use it to make pumpkin butter, a smoothie, a pie, a bowl of oatmeal, burgers, brownies, truffles, or incorporate it into soups and salads. I do, suggest avoiding those chemically and artificially-flavored pumpkin lattes and sugary donuts from your local coffee store. Why not eat this superfood in whole form and retain all the amazing health benefits it can offer you instead?
Here’s what a little bit of pumpkin can do for you:
1. Low in Calories
Per cup, pumpkin only contains 83 calories, most of which is fiber. While it’s not necessary to count calories from healthy vegetables, eating those with lower amounts of calories and higher amounts of fiber are a great way to bulk up your meals. This will keep you full and satisfied without causing weight gain and give your body nourishment at the same time.
Pumpkin contains over 500 milligrams of potassium per cup. That’s more than a banana and a sweet potato for far fewer calories and sugar. Potassium is important for regulating your blood pressure, maintaining water balance in the body, and preventing muscle cramps. It also conquers bloat, regulates nervous system function, and keeps your body from becoming dehydrated.
3. Low in Sugar and Starch
Pumpkin contains lower amounts of sugar and starch than all other starchy vegetables. Per cup, it only contains 8 grams of sugar, but has 7 grams of fiber. The high fiber content helps your body digest the sugars in pumpkin more slowly and will prevent blood sugar swings. Pumpkin also has an overall low carbohydrate content, with a total of 18 grams per cup, including the sugar and fiber content. By comparison, a medium sweet potato has 180 calories with 41 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fiber. Pumpkin is great for anyone looking to control their blood sugar, for diabetics, or for anyone on a low carbohydrates or low glycemic diet. It has a glycemic rating of six, compared to sweet potatoes ranking in at 52.
4. High in Vitamin A
Pumpkin contains beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A naturally. Vitamin A is important for multiple cellular functions in the body, keeping the immune system healthy, and it helps your skin stay healthy. It can ward off acne, dryness, and even aging. Per cup, pumpkin contains 763 percent of your daily Vitamin A content! Vitamin A rich foods such as pumpkin have been found to fight breast cancer and lower your risk of disease.
5. Satisfies Your Sweet Tooth
Though pumpkin is low in sugar, it’s a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Using pumpkin in place of higher sugar fruits can help lower your blood sugar and help curb your cravings for those higher in sugar. Try incorporating pumpkin in your baked goods, in breakfast dishes, or stir some into your next batch of soup. Roast pumpkin into cubes and toss it on your next fall salad or just sprinkle some cinnamon and nutmeg on top and snack on it whole.
6. Digestive Aid
Ninety percent of pumpkin is water and most of the rest is fiber. Fiber and water help regulate the digestive system to prevent constipation. The type of fiber found in pumpkin is mostly soluble fiber, which is a bit easier on the body than insoluble fiber (though both are important for overall health.) For this reason, pumpkin and other starchy vegetables are often recommended for those with digestive struggles like IBD or IBS. The potassium and water content in pumpkin also battle bloating, which can help prevent discomfort. Stir some into your dishes to keep your digestive system running smoothly around the clock!
7. Mood Booster
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based trytophan, an amino acid that aids in calming the mind and body. Trytophan is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps ensure a healthy mood, lower anxiety, aid in a good night’s rest, and it helps prevent depression. Trytophan is also found in sweet potatoes, some leafy greens, bananas, nuts, seeds, and most legumes and beans.
8. Vitamin C
Pumpkin is also a fantastic source of Vitamin C, with 17 percent of your daily recommended amounts in just one cup. Vitamin C is important for your immune system and nervous system. It’s much better to get your Vitamin C from food than from supplements, so eat more pumpkin year round to keep the colds away naturally!
9. Lowers Cholesterol
Pumpkin’s soluble fiber content naturally makes it helpful for lowering cholesterol. Foods high in soluble fiber like pumpkin have a gelling effect once consumed. This is especially helpful for sweeping waste and cholesterol out of the body on a regular basis. Try to include some pumpkin and other cholesterol-lowering foods into your diet on a regular basis however you can.
Pumpkin even contains a little protein with 3 grams per cup and it’s a good source of magnesium and iron. As you can see, pumpkin isn’t just delicious, but it’s also downright fantastic for you! Choose organic pumpkin whenever possible and if you purchase canned versions, go for brands that contain BPA-free liners. Even better, buy your pumpkin from a local farmers market or a food delivery program.
Be sure to also check out our variety of pumpkin recipes if you’re looking for new ways to eat pumpkin this year.
Image Source: Creepy Crawly Vegan Pumpkin Muffins