The Health Benefits of Pumpkin Are Proof It Deserves All of the Hype

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7 Health Benefits of Pumpkin That Will Inspire You to Eat More Squash

Good gourd! These surprising health benefits of pumpkin (and pumpkin's nutrition facts!) will inspire you to add more of the fall favorite ingredient to your menu.

01 of 07

The Many Health Benefits of Pumpkin

The Many Health Benefits of Pumpkin
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Far too often relegated to Halloween doorstep décor and coffee drink marketing device, pumpkin — a type of winter squash (yes, like butternut squash) — deserves even more attention, especially given it's long list of perks. Not only does it taste delish and boast an uncanny ability to upgrade any doorstep, but pumpkin's also a superstar source of beta-carotene. Beta what?! Responsible for the gourd's orange hue, beta-carotene's a carotenoid or plant pigment that the body converts into vitamin A and, in doing so, supports immune system functions, skin and vision health, and more, according to the National Library of Medicine. (BTW, it's also responsible for many of mango's health benefits and iconic yellow hue.) And as a type of winter squash, pumpkin has flesh (interior) that's packed with potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and phosphorous, according to research published in PLoS One.

As for pumpkin's nutrition facts, in particular? Here's the nutritional profile of 1 cup (245 grams) of mashed, cooked pumpkin without salt, according to the United States Department of Agriculture:

  • 49 calories
  • 2 grams protein
  • < 1 gram fat
  • 12 grams carbohydrate
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 6 grams sugar

And get this: One cup of mashed, cooked pumpkin without salt has a whopping 706 micrograms of vitamin A, which is a little bit more than 100 percent of your daily reccomended value of the nutrient (700 micrograms so non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding, adult women, according to the National Institutes of Health.)

Now before getting into the health benefits of pumpkin, let's quickly talk about the many ways to whip up this gourd in the kitchen. Enjoy it sliced fresh, then roasted, boiled, or steamed — or open a can of pumpkin purée (Buy It, $1, target.com). "Just make sure you purchase pure pumpkin purée rather than canned pumpkin pie; there is a big difference. It's naturally sweet and can add a nice complexity to sweet and savory dishes," says Jenna A. Werner, R.D., creator of Happy Slim Healthy. Then you'll be off, running, and well on your way to enjoying all of these incredible pumpkin benefits.

02 of 07

Promotes Healthy Digestion

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Trouble on the toilet? Hey, it happens — and pumpkin can help. "Pumpkins are a good source of fiber, which helps keep you feeling full and promotes healthy digestion," says Werner.

See, "fiber [adds] bulk to stool, which makes it easier to pass and keep you regular," Shannon Leininger, M.E.d., R.D., registered dietitian and owner of LiveWell Nutrition, previously told Shape.

But that's not all the squash's fiber content can do for you: It can also slow absorption of the carbohydrates, including natural sugars, so you don't experience the blood sugar highs and lows of, say, a handful of gummy bears, according to research published in the journal Nutrients.

Plus like many hydrating fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is mostly made of water (about 90 percent) — a helpful bonus that supports normal bowel movements. (Another orange ingredient that's full of H20? Cantaloupe.)

03 of 07

Reduces Cancer Risk

Lump in breast
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A magical combo platter of vitamins A and C, iron, and more nutrients make pumpkin practically natural armor against cancer cells. In particular, the health benefits of pumpkin decrease risk for prostate, breast, and colon cancers, according to previous research. Consuming the antioxidants found in foods such as pumpkin (and corn and beans) can help neutralize free radicals and, in turn, combat oxidative stress, a major factor in decreasing cancer risk as well. (ICYDK, high levels of oxidative stress can increase the rise of developing chronic conditions such as, you probably guessed it, cancer.)

And once again, the fiber may play a role here, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., a dietitian based in New York City. Consuming more soluble fiber has been linked to lower risk of mouth, colon and stomach cancers, too.

04 of 07

Manages Blood Sugar

diabetes-symptoms-women
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When you enjoy it unadorned (aka no fancy stuff, just the squash), pumpkin calories are quite low. Since following a low-cal diet can be key to keeping type 2 diabetes in check, that makes pumpkin a wise choice. "Seek out canned pumpkin without added sugar and you can enjoy it all year," says Taub-Dix.

The phenolic phytochemicals (see: beta-carotene) in this seasonal wonder food have been shown to control blood sugar levels, and in turn, lower the risk for diabetes. (

"Boosting fiber consumption can help maintain blood sugar levels, too, which can aid in weight loss and help manage diabetes," says Werner.

05 of 07

Boosts Immunity

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Looking to stave off the sniffles? Pick up some pumpkin, as "the vitamin C in pumpkin is great for your immune system," says Werer. More specifically, vitamin C has been shown to stimulate the production and improve the function of white blood cells — the bad boys that protect your body from foreign invaders or pathogens — and to increase levels of existing antibodies that also help fight off foreign antigens, according to research. (

And need not forget about the beta-carotene, which is responsible for many of the health benefits of pumpkin. As mentioned above, the carotenoid is converted into vitamin A in the body, thereby boosting the "natural killer" cells that fight diseases including ear, bladder, and kidney infections, according to research in The Journal of Nutrition.

With around 15 percent of your daily reccomended value of vitamin C (75 micrograms for non-breastfeeding, non-pregnant women, according to the NIH) and over 100 percent of your daily reccomended amount of vitamin A, noshing on this squash is sure to deliver plenty of immune-boosting benefits.

06 of 07

Improves Eye Health

I Got an Eyelash Tint and Didn't Wear Mascara for Weeks
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This stellar winter squash is a real vision-booster. "Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, which can be converted to vitamin A, important for keeping your skin and eyes healthy," says Taub-Dix. In fact, research suggests that vitamin A deficiency is common cause for blindness. But don't freak out: Pumpkin is also an A+ source of lutein and zexanathin, both of which can be particularly beneficial in the battle against cataracts (which, over time, can interfere with vision).

You've heard all about the sight advantages of carrots, right? Well the health benefits of pumpkin trump the same size serving of the root veggie: Half a cup of pumpkin contains more than 1,000 milligrams of vitamin A, while a half cup of cooked carrots has about 700 milligrams.

07 of 07

Regulates Blood Pressure

High Blood pressure
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"Pumpkin contains potassium and antioxidants, which contribute to good heart health," says Werner. In fact, one cup of mashed, cooked pumpkin has 564 micrograms of potassium — nearly 22 percent of your daily value of the nutrient (2,600 micrograms for non-breasting and non-pregnant adult women, according to the NIH). And this is a pretty big deal because research suggests that those who maintain ample potassium intake (think: by eating foods that are rich in the nutrient such as, yup, pumpkin) have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of strokes — both of which can lower your chances of heart disease. (

When it comes to the health benefits of pumpkin, you can't forget all the perks of pumpkin seeds as well. The edible seeds have oil that's full of, well, unsaturated ("good") fats that can help prevent high blood pressure, according to research in the Journal of Medicinal Food. And, friendly reminder, the higher your BP, the more likely you are to develop heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Don't stress about how to add more pumpkin to your diet. (That stress can be bad for your blood pressure, don't you know?) Here, Werner and Taub-Dix share some wise ways to get your pumpkin nutrition fix:

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