Pumpkin lovers, it's time to unite! Pumpkin Spice Latte. Pumpkin Bread. Pumpkin Pie. Pumpkins are everywhere, especially this time of year. And that's not a bad thing.
They are low in calories but rich in fiber (3g/cup), magnesium, copper, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C, and provide 50% of the recommended intake for vitamin K.
What really stands out, however, is that bright golden orange color thanks to its rich beta-carotene content. This plant pigment is converted to vitamin A in the body. Just 100 grams of pumpkin supplies you with about 245% of the recommended intake for vitamin A.
These plant pigments, called carotenoids, are powerful antioxidants that help protect cells from oxidative damage to DNA and can be protective against many diseases. Carotenoids have shown anticancer abilities for many types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer.
Two carotenoids that pumpkins are rich in are lutein and zeaxanthin. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 2.5 mg of both. Of the hundreds of carotenoids we know of, these carotenoids are most prominently located in the retina of the eye. According to the American Optometric Association, they help filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light (such as from computer and phone screens). This helps protect and maintain healthy cells in the eye.
We can't talk about pumpkin health benefits without talking about their seeds, too! These protein-rich seeds (7 g per 1 oz serving) are also rich in fiber, healthy fats, iron, zinc, selenium, and tryptophan (which produces the feel-good hormone serotonin).
There's more to pumpkin than pumpkin pie, though! You can incorporate canned, roasted or boiled pumpkin into various dishes, such as curries, soups, stews or mashed as a side dish. Add roasted pumpkin cubes to a salad or a rice dish. Use canned pumpkin in a smoothie, a yogurt parfait, a chipotle dip, oatmeal, a pasta sauce, or in protein pancakes. If you buy a whole pumpkin, save the seeds and roast them with your favorite seasoning.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/lutein