The Great Pumpkin

If you think pumpkins are just for pies, decorations or chunkin’, it’s time you took another look at this plump orange fruit.

If you think pumpkins are just for pies, decorations or chunkin’, it’s time you took another look at this plump orange fruit.

That’s right, I said fruit. Culinary types call it a vegetable because of the savory quality of its plant product. But botanically speaking, a pumpkin is a fruit. In fact, it’s a berry.

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But no matter what you call it, pumpkins are downright good for you. “Pumpkins are very nutritious foods,” says Kim Westcott, medical nutrition therapist at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes. “The flesh as well as the seeds. Both hold many benefits.”

Here’s a look at the nutritional advantages of this seasonal superstar and how it contributes to good health:

1. Pumpkins Fight Disease
The compound that gives the pumpkin its bright orange color can keep you from getting sick. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant known for its potential to boost the immune system. It might even prevent certain cancers by destroying precancerous cells, according to the National Cancer Institute.

2. Pumpkins Keep Eyesight Sharp
A cup of pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of the daily-recommended intake of Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision, particularly in dim light, according to the National Institutes of Health.

3. Pumpkin Seeds Can Keep Your Heart Healthy
Nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are rich in phytosterols, which are plant-based chemicals shown to reduce LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are also packed with magnesium which helps prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. A quarter-cup of pumpkin seeds contains about half the recommended daily requirement of this important mineral.

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4. Pumpkins Can Help with Weight Loss
You may not think of pumpkin as a good source of fiber but with three grams of fiber per cup and only 49 calories, pumpkin can help fill you up without filling you out. Canned pumpkin is concentrated so it contains even more fiber—as much as seven grams—as well as three grams of protein. There’s even more fiber in those pumpkin seeds.

5. Pumpkin Makes a Great Post-Workout Food
We’ve always heard that the banana is nature’s energy bar because of all the potassium it contains. But you may be surprised to learn that while an average size banana provides about 420 mg of potassium, a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 560 mg. Potassium helps restore electrolytes and maintain fluids in your body after a strenuous workout. This ensures that muscles recover properly and helps avoid cramping. Potassium also helps maintain a healthy blood pressure.

6. Pumpkins Can Help Keep You Looking Young
Pumpkins are 90 percent water. That helps keep you hydrated which minimizes wrinkles because it’s plumping up your skin. Various studies also show that the Vitamins A, C and E contained in pumpkins can help neutralize the free radicals that age the skin.

7. Pumpkins Can Help Keep You Happy and Well-Rested
Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to produce the “happy hormone” serotonin. Serotonin in turn produces the “sleep hormone” melatonin, which is important for developing a healthy, normal sleep cycle. Noshing on a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds just might give you a brighter outlook and improved shuteye.


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