Pumpkins were essential to the Aztec and Mayan diets thousands of years ago. And early Native Americans ate pumpkin flesh to help them survive the long winters. They also ate pumpkin seeds and used them as medicine.
And when pilgrims came to America, pumpkin became a critical and nutritious food for them as well. Without pumpkins, many of the early settlers might not have survived.
One of the first American folk songs has these lyrics: “We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon; If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone.”
Around the world today, most parts of the plant, especially the seeds and the yellow blossoms, are used in traditional systems of medicine. Many people in developing countries consume pumpkins regularly to get a significant amount of the energy and nutrients they need to survive.
Pumpkin seeds are nutrient powerhouses. Yet pumpkin flesh is also rich in nutrients. It’s packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals and can be consumed regularly to help you thrive throughout fall and winter.
1) Pumpkins help boost immunity to keep you well
Both pumpkin flesh and seeds are high in vitamin C and antioxidants, including beta-carotene and other carotenoids.
In fact, pumpkin is one of the best sources of beta-carotene and the other synergistic carotenoids. Together, they give pumpkins their bright, eye-catching color.
Beta-carotene is good for your immune system because it’s converted into vitamin A, triggering the creation of white blood cells, which fight infection and help keep you well.
2) Pumpkin can help cleanse the liver
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids in pumpkins improve the tissue health of the liver, and also help detoxify the liver.
3) Pumpkins help keep your eyes healthy
In addition to their immune benefits, beta-carotene and the other carotenoids, including lutein, are important for eye health.
But these are only some of the many antioxidants found in pumpkin that can help you prevent degenerative damage to your eyes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A — which aids vision, particularly in dim light.
4) Pumpkins can help you feel full — supporting weight loss
Pumpkin is packed with fiber, helping you feel fuller and more satisfied for longer. Fiber is associated with weight loss, too.
It slows the rate of sugar absorption into the blood and is beneficial for digestion.
5) Pumpkins help keep your skin healthy
Eating pumpkin can help improve the appearance and texture of your skin.
The antioxidants in pumpkins, particularly the carotenoids and vitamins C and E, help improve your skin’s health.
6) Pumpkins are a heart-healthy choice
The potassium in pumpkins can have a positive effect on blood pressure.
A 2017 study published in “Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases” suggests that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing sodium (salt) intake for treating high blood pressure.
Another study showed how participants with the highest amount of beta-carotene had approximately half the risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to those with the lowest amount.
The soluble fiber in pumpkin is also useful for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.
7) Pumpkins can help prevent cancer
Pumpkins are packed with antioxidants, and eating them often may help reduce the risk of many types of cancer.
Specifically, according to the National Cancer Institute, the beta-carotene in pumpkins may play a role in cancer prevention.
And as the NIH discovered, food sources of beta-carotene work far better than supplements, particularly when the food sources contain the full range of carotenoids.
8) Consuming pumpkin can help treat type 2 diabetes and lower blood sugar. Eating pumpkin can have a variety of beneficial effects for diabetics — and for lowering blood sugar.
A 2009 study published in “Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry,” found that substances in pumpkin may help improve insulin resistance and slow the progression of diabetes.
Multiple studies, including a 2007 study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” and a 2005 study published in “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition,” have demonstrated how substances in pumpkin can lower blood sugar levels.
9) Eating pumpkin can help reduce inflammation and the risk of arthritis
Regular intake of the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin, which is found in pumpkin, can cool unwanted inflammation.
A study also showed how increasing consumption of this carotenoid is associated with a reduced risk of developing inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.