Pumpkin is a dietary staple for many families’ holiday dinner spreads, but there’s so much more to enjoy than pumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced lattes. Pumpkin is cultivated all over the world for various commercial, agricultural, and decorative purposes. (3) This bright orange winter squash can be used in many sweet or savory dishes and boasts an impressive nutrient profile.

Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of pumpkin and how you can incorporate more pumpkin into your diet year-round.

 

 

Health benefits of pumpkin
Pumpkin is a versatile winter squash with many health benefits.

4 Health benefits of pumpkin

Whether pureed, roasted, or baked, pumpkin is a natural source of many essential nutrients and other dietary components. Most notably, pumpkin contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene, and fiber. (3)

Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) also contain various vitamins (e.g., vitamin E), minerals (e.g., zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus), unsaturated fatty acids, protein, and phytonutrients (health-promoting chemical compounds found in plants) such as zeaxanthin and lutein. (3)(11) Thanks to its nutrient profile, pumpkin may support immune function, skin health, cardiometabolic health, and more.

1. Supports immune system health

Beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), found in abundance in pumpkin flesh, has been shown to enhance immune system function, helping defend the body from infection. (8)(11) Vitamin C, also found in pumpkin flesh, plays a role in immune function by scavenging for free radicals and supporting the epithelial barrier, a physical barrier of cells that protects the body from pathogens. (5)(19) Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of zinc, which is necessary for the development and function of immune cells. (17)

2. Promotes healthy skin

The vitamins and antioxidants found in pumpkin are well-known for their skin health-promoting properties. For example, pumpkin is high in vitamin C, an essential vitamin and antioxidant that protects the skin against photodamage induced by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Vitamin C also stimulates collagen synthesis, a major structural component of the skin. (16)

When topically applied, pumpkin may alleviate symptoms of contact dermatitis, a red, itchy rash that may be associated with psychological stress. (4) According to a study in rats with stress-induced depression, topical and oral application of pumpkin fruit (Cucurbita pepo L.) extract reduced inflammatory and oxidative changes related to contact dermatitis. (4)

A small human trial found that using a pumpkin ointment for hand eczema significantly improved quality of life but not the severity of the skin condition when compared to topical steroids. However, pumpkin ointment was recommended as an adjunct therapy to topical steroids in order to reduce the amount of steroids used in those afflicted with hand eczema. (10)

 

 

health benefits of pumpkin man and child smiling
Pumpkin is rich in antioxidants that may protect eye health.

 

3. Protects eye health

Pumpkin contains various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have been shown to be protective against age-related eye disease. Multiple studies demonstrate that consuming fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids (e.g., lutein and zeaxanthin), such as pumpkin, is associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition characterized by blurred vision or loss of central vision in older adults. (6)(7)(14) Pumpkin also contains vitamins C and E, which may act as antioxidants and protect eye health. (9)

4. Protects against cardiometabolic conditions

Pumpkins are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Research suggests that diets rich in these components are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. (18)

Some animal studies have observed significant reductions in serum concentrations of total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) concentrations in rats fed pumpkin seeds. (1)

Although human trials are limited, some animal studies have shown that pumpkin and pumpkin seeds may reduce blood sugar levels in diabetic rats. (12)(13) Furthermore, a small 2017 case study noted a decrease in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), an indicator of blood sugar control over three to four months, from 10.8% to 8.5% following daily servings of pumpkin flesh in a patient with type 1 diabetes. Interestingly, HbA1c increased to 11.3% after the patient stopped consuming daily servings of pumpkin. (2)

Adding pumpkin to your diet

Incorporating pumpkin into your diet is easy all year round!

Snack on pumpkin seeds

Add dry roasted or raw pumpkin seeds to salads, mix them into homemade granola, add them to yogurt or oatmeal, sprinkle over avocado toast, or simply enjoy them on their own as a healthy snack.

Did you know? Roasted pumpkin seeds have higher total concentrations of phytonutrients and improved antioxidant properties compared to raw seeds. (15)

Add to smoothies

Pureed pumpkin adds natural sweetness and creaminess to smoothies. Try adding pumpkin in place of bananas to your next smoothie.

Tip: Most grocery stores carry canned pureed pumpkin year-round. Avoid purchasing pumpkin pie filling, which may contain large amounts of added sugar.

 

health benefits of pumpkin pumpkin smoothie
Add pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice to a smoothie for a healthy fall-inspired drink.

 

Roast it

Roasting is a simple way to bring out the natural sweetness found in pumpkins. Add roasted pumpkin to salads or serve as a savory side dish.

Cook a comforting pumpkin soup or chili

Similar to other winter squash, pumpkin works very well in silky, pureed soups. You can also roast some diced pumpkin and add it to your favorite chili recipe.

Add to baked goods

Pureed pumpkin can replace oil or butter in many baked goods. Next time you’re craving muffins or banana bread, swap out the butter for pureed pumpkin (approximately ¾ cup of pumpkin for every 1 cup of butter).

Did you know? The most popular variety of pumpkin for baking purposes is the sugar pumpkin, also known as the “pie pumpkin”.

Mix into oatmeal

Add a scoop of pumpkin puree to a bowl of oatmeal and top with your favorite toppings, such as pumpkin pie spice, pecans, or raisins.

The bottom line

Before carving your next pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern or displaying it on your front porch as part of your fall decor, consider all the culinary possibilities this versatile squash has to offer. Pumpkin contains many vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that may help support immune health, protect against cardiometabolic conditions, and protect eye and skin health. If you’re a patient, consult your healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet.

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  1. Abuelgassim, A., & Al-Showayman, S. (2011). The effect of pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo l) seeds and L-Arginine supplementation on serum lipid concentrations in atherogenic rats. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 9(1), 131–137.
  2. Alenazi, B., & Deeb, A. (2017). Does pumpkin affect glycemic control in diabetic patient. Case report and literature review. European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research, 4(9), 42–45.
  3. Amin, M. Z., Islam, T., Uddin, M. R., Uddin, M. J., Rahman, M. M., & Satter, M. A. (2019). Comparative study on nutrient contents in the different parts of indigenous and hybrid varieties of pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima Linn.). Heliyon, 5(9), e02462.
  4. Balgoon, M. J., Al-Zahrani, M. H., Jaouni, S. A., & Ayuob, N. (2021). Combined oral and topical application of pumpkin (cucurbita pepo L.) alleviates contact dermatitis associated with depression through downregulation Pro-Inflammatory cytokines. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 12, 663417.
  5. Carr, A., & Maggini, S. (2017). Vitamin C and immune function. Nutrients, 9(11), 1211.
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  11. Kulczyński, B., Sidor, A., & Gramza-Michałowska, A. (2020). Antioxidant potential of phytochemicals in pumpkin varieties belonging to Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita pepo species. CyTA – Journal of Food, 18(1), 472–484.
  12. Liu, Y., Jin, H., Xu, Z. Q., Nan, W. K., Wang, T., & Cheng, Y. Y. (2006). Effects of pumpkin polysaccharides on blood glucose and blood lipids in diabetic rats]. Chinese Journal of Applied Physiology, 22(3), 358–361.
  13. Makni, M., Fetoui, H., Gargouri, N. K., Garoui, E. M., & Zeghal, N. (2011). Antidiabetic effect of flax and pumpkin seed mixture powder: Effect on hyperlipidemia and antioxidant status in alloxan diabetic rats. Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications, 25(5), 339–345.
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