It may still feel like summer outside, but fall has entered the chat. When I think of fall, I think of cooler weather, football and (of course) PUMPKIN! There are so many pumpkin items out there – pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin scented candles, pumpkin beer (yes, that is a thing) – but did you know that adding real pumpkin to your life is good for your health? Here are some of the lesser-known benefits of this autumnal staple.
Not only is pumpkin low-calorie (about 50 calories per cup), but it’s also full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, B2 and E as well as potassium, copper, manganese, iron and folate. In addition, pumpkin is a great source of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, all of which help neutralize free radicals that can damage your body’s cells.
The seeds of the pumpkin are also a tasty and healthy addition to your diet. Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber and antioxidants. I find the best way to enjoy pumpkin seeds is to roast them in the oven then add them to your favorite soups and salads or eat them by themselves for a tasty snack or on-the-go treat.
The antioxidant effects of pumpkin are great for your skin, too. That’s why you’ll see pumpkin and pumpkin seed oil as a common ingredient in many natural skincare products. The antioxidant properties of pumpkin can stimulate collagen production, help repair UV damage, fight acne and reduce signs of aging such as fine lines and age spots.
Making a pumpkin facial or a pumpkin scrub at home is a fun and easy fall activity that can save you an expensive trip to the spa. Simply use pureed pumpkin (plain canned pumpkin is OK, but fresh is best) and your choice of natural moisturizers and/or exfoliants, including honey, oatmeal, sugar, yogurt, cinnamon and olive oil. A quick Google search will yield dozens of recipes.
Vitamin A is essential for eye health, and pumpkin is full of it – a single cup of pumpkin has over 200% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A! An added bonus? Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds are thought to help prevent cataracts and could possibly slow down the development of macular degeneration and lower the risk of cataracts.
Aided by the zinc that’s also found in pumpkins, vitamin A plays an integral part in helping the retina produce melanin which helps to protect the eyes from the sun’s rays. And last but not least, this multi-tasking vitamin plays a big role in the regulation of light and enables us to see in low-light situations.
Although pumpkin is seen as a seasonal fruit (yes, pumpkin is a fruit!), it might not be a bad idea to incorporate it into your diet year-round. Learn more about the benefits of pumpkin in these Healthline and WebMD articles.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin? Let us know in the comments!