Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are on the horizon, pumpkin season is officially here. While many people simply think of it as a treat to enjoy in pies, ice cream and spiced lattes, or a decoration to carve and put out on the porch, pumpkin, a type of winter squash, is considered a superfood.
Pumpkin has many surprising nutritional and health benefits you may not be aware of. Be sure to check with your doctor for any dietary restrictions, but following are five benefits to take note of that may encourage you to add more pumpkin into your life all year long.
• Pumpkin may help fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes. According to Healthline, pumpkin is packed with nutrients, including antioxidants, that can help neutralize free radicals to stop them from damaging your cells and possibly causing cancer. It also contains potassium, which helps reduce blood pressure and thus the risk of heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. Finally, pumpkin may reduce glucose levels, increase the amount of insulin the body produces and improve glucose tolerance, helping reduce the risk of or control diabetes.
• Pumpkin promotes healthy skin. WebMD states that pumpkin is high in beta-carotene, which provides protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays to reduce wrinkles and skin damage. It also contains vitamin C, which helps produce collagen to support healthy, strong, plump and youthful-looking skin. While pumpkin can be eaten to promote healthy skin from the inside, it also can be used as a face mask to promote healthy skin from the outside.
• Pumpkin helps protect the immune system. If you want to protect your body from colds, infections and viruses this cold and flu season, pumpkin can help. It contains high amounts of both vitamin C and vitamin A, which strengthen the body’s immune system to fight these illnesses. For these reasons, it’s helpful that pumpkin is a winter fruit and is popular to eat during the holidays this time of year.
• Pumpkin aids in weight loss. Pumpkin is low in calories, which is great for reducing your daily caloric intake for weight-loss purposes. It also is high in fiber, which slows digestion and keeps you feeling full longer so that you’ll be less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks that are high in calories and low in nutritional value.
• Pumpkin benefits eyesight. If you want to maintain or improve your eyesight, pumpkin could be a great option. The high beta-carotene and vitamin A content is critical for eye health, as it improves the retina’s ability to absorb and process light. According to WebMD, pumpkin contains more than 200% of the average recommended daily intake, which is great news for your optical health.
Reena Vokoun is founder of the Los Altos-based Passion Fit, a health, wellness and fitness lifestyle company. For a class schedule and more information, visit passionfit.com.