Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family.
It’s native to North America and particularly popular around Thanksgiving and Halloween.
In the US, pumpkin typically refers to Cucurbita pepo, an orange type of winter squash. In other regions, such as Australia, pumpkin may refer to any type of winter squash.
While commonly viewed as a vegetable, a pumpkin is scientifically a fruit, as it contains seeds. That said, it’s nutritionally more similar to vegetables than fruits.
Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits.
Here are 9 impressive nutrition and health benefits of pumpkin.
1. Pumpkin is highly nutritious
Pumpkin has an impressive nutrient profile.
One cup of cooked pumpkin (245 grams) contains:
- Calories: 49
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Vitamin A: 245% of the daily value
- Vitamin C: 19% of the daily value
- Potassium: 16% of the daily value
- Copper: 11% of the daily value
- Manganese: 11% of the daily value
- Vitamin B2: 11% of the daily value
- Vitamin E: 10% of the daily value
- Iron: 8% of the daily value
- Small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate, and several B vitamins.
Besides being packed with vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is also relatively low in calories, as it’s 94% water.
It’s also very high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body turns into vitamin A.
Moreover, pumpkin seeds are edible, nutritious, and linked to numerous health benefits.
Summary: Pumpkin is high in vitamins and minerals while being low in calories. It’s also a great source of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that your body converts into vitamin A.
2. Pumpkins may reduce your risk of chronic diseases
Free radicals are molecules produced by your body’s metabolic process. Though highly unstable, they have useful roles, such as destroying harmful bacteria.
However, excessive free radicals in your body create a state called oxidative stress, which has been linked to chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
Pumpkins contain antioxidants, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These can neutralize free radicals, stopping them from damaging your cells.
Test-tube and animal studies have shown that these antioxidants protect skin against sun damage and lower the risk of cancer, eye diseases, and other conditions.
However, keep in mind that more human-based research is needed to make health recommendations.
Summary: Pumpkin contains the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and many others, which may protect your cells against damage by free radicals.
3. Pumpkins may boost immunity
Pumpkin is loaded with nutrients that can boost your immune system.
Suggested read: 9 impressive health benefits of almond milk
For one, it’s high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A.
Studies show that vitamin A can strengthen your immune system and help fight infections. Conversely, people with a vitamin A deficiency can have a weaker immune system.
Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more effectively and make wounds heal faster.
Aside from the two vitamins mentioned above, pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin E, iron, and folate — all of which have been shown to aid the immune system as well.
Summary: Pumpkin is high in vitamins A and C, which can help boost your immune system. Its supply of vitamin E, iron, and folate may strengthen your immunity as well.
4. Pumpkins may protect your eyesight
It’s quite common for eyesight to diminish with age.
Fortunately, eating the right nutrients can lower your risk of sight loss. Pumpkin is plentiful in nutrients that have been linked to strong eyesight as your body ages.
For instance, its beta-carotene content provides your body with the necessary vitamin A. Research shows that vitamin A deficiency is a very common cause of blindness.
Suggested read: 9 proven health benefits of beets
In an analysis of 22 studies, scientists discovered that people with higher intakes of beta-carotene had a significantly lower risk of cataracts, a common cause of blindness.
Pumpkin is also one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds linked to lower risks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
Additionally, it contains good amounts of vitamins C and E, which function as antioxidants and may prevent free radicals from damaging your eye cells.
Summary: Pumpkins’ high vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin contents may protect your eyes against sight loss, which becomes more common with age.
5. Pumpkins may promote weight loss
Pumpkin is considered a nutrient-dense food.
That means it’s incredibly low in calories despite being packed with nutrients.
Pumpkin clocks in at under 50 calories per cup (245 grams) and consists of about 94% of water.
Simply put, pumpkin is a weight-loss-friendly food because you can consume more of it than other carb sources — such as rice and potatoes — but still take in fewer calories.
What’s more, pumpkin is a good source of fiber, which can help curb your appetite.
Summary: Pumpkin is packed with nutrients and yet has under 50 calories per cup (245 grams). This makes it a nutrient-dense food. It’s also a good source of fiber, which may suppress your appetite.
6. Pumpkins may lower your risk of cancer
Cancer is a serious illness in which cells grow abnormally.
Cancer cells produce free radicals to help them multiply rapidly.
Pumpkin is high in carotenoids, which are compounds that can function as antioxidants. This allows them to neutralize free radicals, which may protect against certain cancers.
For instance, an analysis of 13 studies showed that people with higher intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had significantly lower risks of stomach cancers.
Similarly, many other human studies have found that individuals with higher intakes of carotenoids have lower risks of throat, pancreas, breast, and other cancers.
However, scientists aren’t sure if the carotenoids themselves or other factors — such as lifestyle habits of those who consume diets rich in carotenoids — are responsible for these lowered risks.
Summary: Pumpkins contain carotenoids, which function as antioxidants. These compounds are linked to lower risks of stomach, throat, pancreas, and breast cancers.
7. Pumpkins may benefit heart health
Pumpkin contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your heart health.
It’s high in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, which have been linked to heart benefits.
Suggested read: Top 9 impressive health benefits of NAC (N-acetyl cysteine)
For instance, studies have shown that people with higher potassium intakes appear to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of strokes — two risk factors for heart disease.
Pumpkin is also high in antioxidants, which may protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. When LDL cholesterol particles oxidize, they can clump along the walls of blood vessels, which can restrict your vessels and raise your risk of heart disease.
Summary: Pumpkin is a good source of potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, which have been linked to heart health benefits.
8. Pumpkins promote healthy skin
Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients that are great for your skin.
For one, it’s high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A.
One cup (245 grams) of cooked pumpkin packs 245% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin A.
Studies show that carotenoids like beta-carotene can act as a natural sunblock.
Once ingested, carotenoids are transported to various organs including your skin. Here, they help protect skin cells against damage from harmful UV rays.
Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which is essential for healthy skin. Your body needs this vitamin to make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.
Moreover, pumpkins contain lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin E, and many more antioxidants that have been shown to boost your skin’s defenses against UV rays.
Summary: Pumpkin is high in beta-carotene, which acts as a natural sunblock. It also contains vitamins C and E, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help keep your skin strong and healthy.
9. Pumpkin is easy to add to your diet
Pumpkin is delicious, versatile, and easy to add to your diet.
Suggested read: 8 impressive health benefits of cauliflower
Its sweet flavor makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like custards, pies, and pancakes. However, it works just as well in savory dishes such as roasted vegetables, soups, and pasta.
Pumpkins have very tough skin, so it requires some effort to slice. Once you cut it, scoop out the seeds and any stringy parts, then slice the pumpkin into wedges.
The seeds are also edible and packed with nutrients which offer many other benefits. For instance, pumpkin seeds may improve bladder and heart health.
Pumpkin is also available pre-cut or canned, giving you flexibility with your recipes and preparation. When buying canned, be sure to read labels carefully, as not all products will be 100% pumpkin and you may want to avoid added ingredients, particularly sugar.
The easiest way to eat pumpkin is to season it with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven. Many people also enjoy making it into pumpkin soup, especially during winter.
Summary: Pumpkin, once sliced and cut, can be easily roasted, puréed into soup, or baked into pies. Its seeds are also edible and highly nutritious.
Who shouldn’t eat pumpkin?
Pumpkin is very healthy and considered safe for most.
However, some people may experience allergies after eating pumpkins.
It’s also considered mildly diuretic, which means eating a lot of pumpkin may induce a “water pill”-like reaction, increasing the amount of water and salt your body expels through urine.
This effect may harm people taking certain medicines such as lithium. Diuretics can impair your body’s ability to remove lithium, causing serious side effects.
Although pumpkin is healthy, many pumpkin-based junk foods — such as lattés, candies, and pie fillings — are loaded with added sugar. They do not offer the same health benefits as consuming the fruit.
Summary: Pumpkin is very healthy and generally safe when eaten in moderation. Make sure to avoid pumpkin-based junk foods, as they are often packed with added sugar.
Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, pumpkin is incredibly healthy.
What’s more, its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food.
Its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health.
Pumpkin is very versatile and easy to add to your diet in both sweet and savory dishes.
Try incorporating pumpkin into your diet today to reap its health benefits.