‘Tis the season for ghouls, goblins, and ghosts! With Halloween just around the corner, you’re probably carving or decorating a pumpkin. Does eating that pumpkin come to mind? Well, maybe after this article, it will!
Pumpkin, in all forms—seeds, leaves, and juices—is rich in vitamins and minerals, but low in calories. It has so many health benefits that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ranked it among the top “fall produce picks” (livestrong). Here is a nutritional breakdown of 1 cup of cooked, drained, or boiled pumpkin according to the USDA Nutrient Database (medicalnewstoday):
- 49 calories
- 0.17 grams of fat
- O grams of cholesterol
- 12.01 grams of carbohydrate
- 2.7 grams of fiber
- 1.76 grams of protein
This amount of pumpkin provides the body with the following: 19% of the RDA of Vitamin C, 10%, possibly more of the RDA of Vitamin E, potassium, riboflavin, copper, and manganese, at least 5 % of thiamin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B-6, folate, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, and Vitamin E (medicalnewstoday).
Here is the USDA Nutrient Database nutritional breakdown of about 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of unshelled roasted pumpkin seeds (medicalnewstoday).
- 125 calories
- 5% of one’s daily iron needs
- 15 grams of carbohydrate (including 0 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fiber)
- 5 grams of protein
In the nutrition department, shelled and roasted pumpkin seeds surpass those unshelled and roasted. The same 28-gram serving size contains:
- 163 calories
- 8% of one’s daily iron needs
- 4 grams of carbohydrate (including 2 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of sugar)
- 8 grams of protein
Overall Immune Health
Who would have thought, a vegetable so commercialized during the unhealthiest of holidays would be the most invigorating of foods? Pumpkin pulp and seeds are great sources of Vitamins C and beta-carotene. As we know from our last article (http://www.makersnutrition.com/news/2017-10-25-how-do-you-like-them-tomatoes/), beta-carotene may reduce the development of certain cancers. It is a powerful antioxidant which the body converts into Vitamin A (medicalnewstoday). It is an especially productive antioxidant in the heart and liver departments when mixed with flaxseeds. Vitamin A, as per Kristeen Cherney of Livestrong, protects our body’s cells from harm as we age, producing white blood cells to fight infection. It also keeps our eyes healthy and boosts our immune system. Just be careful, as Kristeen Cherney advises, not to ingest more than the recommended amount of Vitamin A. Overdoing it can lead to hypervitaminosis A, a condition involving jaundice. Further damage could include liver and/or kidney damage and is especially dangerous for children’s growth and development (livestrong). Pumpkin seeds, like so many other nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid, which depletes the bioavailability of some nutrients. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD, suggests “If you eat seeds and nuts regularly, you may want to soak or sprout them to reduce the phytic acid content. Roasting them may also help” (healthline).
While the recommended daily fiber intake is 25-30 grams, Americans only consume about 15 grams a day. How can we fix this deficiency? Why, pumpkin of course! Adequate fiber ingestion means reducing the risk of colon cancer because this mineral hinders the rate of sugar absorption into the blood, while promoting smooth digestion (medicalnewstoday).
Even a quarter of a cup of pumpkin seeds holds nearly half of the daily recommended amount of magnesium. Magnesium, the forgotten mineral (http://makersnutrition.com/news/2017-09-06-magnesium-the-element-we-might-be-overlooking/), has a plentitude of benefits for our body and mind. It creates ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of the body), “the synthesis of RNA and DNA, the pumping of [our] hearts, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of [our] blood vessels, and proper bowel function” (articles.mercola). Magnesium is also heart healthy, as lipid profiles have shown improvement with a daily intake of 365 milligrams of magnesium (medicalnewstoday).
Rich in zinc, pumpkin seeds help the body’s immunity in terms of cell growth and division, mood, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and sleep (articles.mercola). Where does sleep come in? The zinc in pumpkin seeds support the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep cycle (healthline). Having trouble sleeping? Maybe pumpkin seeds can help.
Women who are either looking to become or who are already pregnant should take heed of their zinc levels. Nearly 80% of women globally have inadequate zinc levels. Such a deficiency can alter circulating levels of multiple hormones affiliated with the onset of labor. The absence of zinc’s many capabilities can lead to preterm birth.
High pumpkin seed diets have been linked to lower levels of breast, lung, prostate (slowing the growth of prostate cancer cells), stomach, and colon cancer. A larger observational study discovered that eating pumpkin was connected to a reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women, while other studies have hinted that the lignans in pumpkin seeds may play into the prevention and treatment of breast cancer (healthline).
In addition to preventing prostate cancer, pumpkin seeds have the power to diminish symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition in which the prostate gland grows and causes issues with urination. Some research also shows that these seeds, even as supplements can aid symptoms of an overactive bladder (healthline). One study especially showed that taking a daily supplement of 10 grams of pumpkin seed extract improved urinary function in 45 men and women with overactive bladders. To find out more about this evidence, visit https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds#section1.
The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds and pulp substantially help tissue and intestine absorb glucose and maintain levels of liver glucose. Animal studies have led us to believe that pumpkin seeds may prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress” (articles.mercola).
Don’t be afraid to get creative:
- Sprinkle some heart healthy cinnamon atop a pumpkin side dish
- Throw some flaxseeds into the mix
- Add pumpkin seeds to yogurt parfait
- Boil some pumpkin into a hot bowl of soup
- Roast pumpkin and quinoa salad
Take note: Megan Ware, PhD, RDN LD, suggests storing pumpkin seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place to improve shelf life. These mighty seeds can keep for 3-4 months if stored appropriately (medicalnewstoday).
Today we are learning more and more of the health benefits pumpkin proposes. Most of the vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, E, and potassium can be taken as supplements—Makers Nutrition’s strong suit. Whichever way you look at it, there are endless possibilities when it comes to the physiological benefits of this delicious vegetable. What to have for breakfast tomorrow? I’m thinking pumpkin pancakes!