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Pumpkin is undoubtedly the poster child produce for autumn. Everything from pie, soup, lattes, and even beer is somehow pumpkin-flavored.
Rich with important nutrients, pumpkin also packs a surprising health punch. If a Pumpkin Spice Latte is the only way you’ve consumed this superfood so far, it’s time you learned about the surprising health benefits of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin is teeming with vitamin A, which has been shown to improve eye health and prevent vision degeneration. A single cup of cooked pumpkin will give you more than 200% of your daily Vitamin A needs, and Vitamin A has been proven to contribute to eye health, improve eyesight in low light environments, and has even been studied as a treatment for dry eye and cataracts. A Harvard study also found that Vitamin A slowed the progression of retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that leads to blindness.
With three grams of fiber in one cup and less than 50 calories, pumpkin is a fantastic source of low-calorie fiber that will help keep you fuller longer. Foods rich in fiber take longer to digest and keep you satiated with fewer calories, making pumpkin a great weight loss aid (assuming you don’t have it in a sugar-laden pie).
The fiber in pumpkin isn’t just a great weight loss tool, it is also important in maintaining a healthy heart. Fiber reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, both important factors in heart disease. A Harvard study found that a high-fiber diet lowered the risk of coronary heart disease.
Pumpkin owes its radiant orange hue to beta-carotene, an orange pigment that is converted into Vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals, lowering the risk of cancer. One study in France found that the risk of lung cancer among non-smokers decreased significantly with higher beta-carotene intake.
If the change of seasons has you feeling down, there’s nothing like a handful of pumpkin seeds to boost your mood. Pumpkin seeds are full of zinc and magnesium, both of which are touted as Mother Nature’s antidepressant. Patients with depression were found to have lower than average levels of zinc and studies have shown the benefits of zinc supplements in treating major depressive disorder.
On top of that magnesium has been nicknamed “the original chill pill” for its potential in combating depression, anxiety, irritability, and psychosis. Pumpkin seeds provide a double dose of mood-boosting nutrients to keep your seasonal blues at bay.
In addition to potentially keeping you happier, pumpkin seeds may make you sleep more soundly at night too. As a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin and melatonin, pumpkin seeds have the potential to make you more tired and fall asleep faster.