With Fall now in full swing, everyone seems to be going crazy over pumpkin flavored everything. All my friends seem to love a good ole pumpkin spice latte with a pumpkin cheesecake muffin on the side. Some of my friends even buy pumpkin flavored cookies, coffee creamer, cream cheese spread, and pumpkin spice cheerios. I even read online there is going to be pumpkin spice flavored spam this year. YUCK! But pure pumpkin does have some amazing health benefits. So maybe this pumpkin craze isn’t too crazy.
Thousands of years ago, pumpkin was essential in the Aztec and Mayan culture. Also, to help survive long winters, early Native Americans ate the pumpkins flesh. Pumpkin seeds were even used for medicinal purposes. When they first got to America, the pilgrims survived off of pumpkins. Across the world today, the stem and seeds of a pumpkin are used in traditional systems of medicine. In developing countries, pumpkins are consumed in large amounts because of its nutrients and the energy it provides.
The Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkins are part of the squash family and are considered a vegetable. The seeds and flesh of a pumpkin are filled with nutrients with the seeds being referred to as the “nutrient powerhouse”. Also, the flesh and seeds are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, along with the flesh being full of fiber and minerals. Consuming pumpkin helps with things such as diabetes and inflammation. Other things include being heart healthy and healthy skin.
Because the flesh and seeds are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, pumpkin helps boost immunity. The flesh and seeds are also one of the best sources of beta-carotene. Beta-Carotene is the pigment that helps give fruits and vegetables their color. The body takes the beta carotene and converts it to vitamin A which we need for a healthy immune system. Vitamin A also helps with healthy skin, mucus membranes, and good eye health. The National Institute of Health said, “A cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A”.
The beta-carotene and the other carotenoids in pumpkin also help improve tissue health of the liver and help the liver detoxify. Being pumpkins are also full of fiber, this helps support weight loss because it leaves the body full and satisfied longer. Fiber also helps slow the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the blood and is beneficial to digestion and lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Pumpkin also has a large amount of potassium which has a positive effect on blood pressure. In 2017, a study published in “Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases” suggested that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing salt intake for treating high blood pressure. Another study published showed participants with the highest amounts of beta-carotene had half the risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to those who had the lowest amount.
Regularly intaking carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, found in pumpkin, helps cool unwanted inflammation. Dr. Fahim conducted a study on this and the results showed a reduced risk of developing inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Multiple studies done in 2005 and 2007 found substances in pumpkin can lower blood sugar levels. Also, in 2009, a study found substances in pumpkin help improve insulin resistance, slowing the progression of diabetes.
Pure pumpkin has so many benefits. Instead of buying foods with pumpkin flavored enhancements, make them at home with fresh pumpkin so you don’t miss out on all of these benefits. Using fresh pumpkin keeps you away from all of the added sugars and sweeteners too! Do you love pumpkin spice lattes but hate how unhealthy they are?! Starbucks’s pumpkin spice latte can be made into a healthier at home version with more nutrients. Looking to change up your hummus flavor? Or wanting to try a new breakfast bar? How about trying some pumpkin chili?
If you must go pumpkin crazy this fall, make sure you do it the healthy way too get all of the amazing benefits! You may even feel less guilty too.