What is a Pumpkin?
Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae or squash family. They are large, round and bright orange, with a slightly ribbed outer skin that is hard but smooth. Inside the pumpkin are the seeds and the flesh. When cooked, the pumpkin is completely edible – skin, pulp and seeds – just remove the stringy bits that hold the seeds in place.
Nutritional profile dand the pumpkin
A portion of 80g of pumpkin (boiled) provides:
Top 5 Health Benefits of Pumpkin
1. May Promote Healthy Skin
Pumpkins are full of skin-beneficial nutrients, including vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene, all of which play an important role in the health of our skin.
Vitamin C is not made naturally by the body, so it is important to get it from our diet, as it plays a role in the formation of collagen which keeps the skin firm and plump. Vitamin C also helps prevent bruising and promotes wound healing.
Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and works with vitamin C to help protect skin against sun damage and dryness. Vitamin A, or beta-carotene, also helps protect the skin from the sun’s UVB rays and can help protect against sunburn, although sun protection is still necessary!
2. May Promote Eye Health
Low vitamin A levels have been linked to decreased vision and even blindness. Beta-carotene, along with vitamins C and E, help protect the eyes and reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases. Pumpkin is also an excellent source of two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, levels of which have been linked to a reduced risk of cataracts.
3. May Support the Immune System
As indicated by their bright orange color, pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A when eaten. Research has shown that vitamin A plays an important role in promoting immune function. Vitamin C also contributes to immune activity by facilitating immune cell activity and increasing the number of white blood cells.
4. May Help Reduce the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is the medical name for a combination of conditions including diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Collectively, these conditions increase your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
A 2015 study in Japan found that diets high in carotenoids, which are pigments found in fruits and vegetables that give them their orange, yellow and green colors, may help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome.
5. May Help Prevent Cancer
Although there are no “super foods” that can prevent cancer, and some cancer risk factors are unrelated to diet, there is evidence that a healthy diet can reduce cancer risk. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of carotenoids, vitamins A and E, all found in pumpkin, may protect against certain cancers, such as breast cancer.
Is pumpkin safe for everyone?
In general, pumpkin is safe for most people, but some people may be allergic to it due to cross-reactivity with other fruits of the same cucurbit family.
The chemicals in pumpkin seeds appear to have a diuretic effect, and consuming a large amount at one time may increase the amount of fluid and electrolytes excreted in the urine. If you are taking certain prescribed medicines, including lithium, you should consult your GP or healthcare professional for further advice.
This article was last revised on August 31, 2022 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). To find out more, visit urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) and holds a postgraduate degree in personalized nutrition and nutrition therapy. She is a Fellow of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a Fellow of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has contributed to a number of nutrition and cooking publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice from your own physician or other healthcare professional. If you have concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider.