Pumpkin is a superfood with an abundance of health benefits. They become very popular in the fall, first for Thanksgiving for pumpkin pie in Canada and then for Halloween.
This large vegetable is loved by everyone! Whether you are growing a 2,623.5 pound pumpkin, eating a delicious bowl of Pumpkin Stew or going for a second piece of pumpkin pie we know it is a special food in the fall. This pumpkin superfood is full of antioxidants to help you reduce the risk of cancer and the right nutrients for healthy eyes and beautiful skin.
Pumpkin Superfood Health Benefits
High in Anti-oxidants – May Lower Risk of Cancer
What science tells us is that cancer cells create free radicals that help them multiply.
This superfood is high in beta carotene which is also known as carotenoids. It acts as antioxidants thus neutralizing free radicals, which can protect against some cancers.
It was found in 13 studies that people with higher intakes of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene had a much lower risk of stomach cancer.
Pumpkins with their dense amount of beta-carotene may play a role in cancer prevention, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Also, beta-carotene has been shown to stop the development of colon cancer in Japan.
Beneficial For Healthy Skin
We already know that the deep orange colour of a pumpkin means it is full of carotenoids like beta-carotene (just like carrots). Carotenoids like beta-carotene turn into vitamin A in your body. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 245% of the RDI for vitamin A. That is a lot!
It has been found in studies that beta-carotene can act as a natural sunblock.
“Photoprotection through individual dietary components such as β-carotene or lycopene in terms of sun protection factor is considerably lower than that achieved by using topical sunscreens. However, an optimal supply of antioxidant micronutrients in the skin increases basal dermal defense against UV irradiation, supports longer-term protection, and contributes to the maintenance of skin health and appearance.” ~ Wilhelm Stahl
Protects Your Eyesight
Eyesight often diminishes with age. The good news is that eating the correct nutrient-rich foods can lower this risk. Pumpkin is full of nutrients linked to strong eyesight.
A survey of baby boomers found that over half of them did not know how important nutrients in their meals played for eye health.
“Therefore, it is important to educate this population and to create an awareness of the nutrients and foods of particular interest in the prevention of age-related eye disease.” – Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, USA
It was found that age-related macular degeneration which causes blindness is developed more for those with a deficiency of vitamin A.
Scientists found that people who had more beta-carotene in their diet had a lower risk of cataracts which again can cause blindness. This was what they found in analyzing 22 studies.
The high amount of vitamin A aids vision, particularly in dim light according to the National Institutes of Health.
Helps Boost Immune System
It is full of nutrients that can nourish your immune system. It is high in beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A.
It has been found in studies that vitamin A can make your immune system stronger and fight infections. It was also noted that having a vitamin A deficiency can weaken the immune system.
There are two more vitamins that pumpkin is a good source of vitamin E, iron and folate which have been found to help the immune system too. According to Bayer Consumer Care Ltd, Switzerland.
Nutrients May Improve Heart Health
This pumpkin superfood contains many nutrients that are good for your heart health.
It is high in antioxidants, that can help protect “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. When LDL cholesterol oxidizes it restricts your blood vessels raising the risk of heart disease.
“High-dose antioxidant supplements may be harmful in some cases. For example, the results of some studies have linked the use of high-dose beta-carotene supplements to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers and use of high-dose vitamin E supplements to increased risks of hemorrhagic stroke (a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain) and prostate cancer.” ~ U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
So eat pumpkin instead of supplements.
Helps You Feel Full – Good For Weight Loss
It is full of good fiber, which helps you feel full and satisfied for longer. Sugar absorption is slowed down in the blood so it is more beneficial for digestion. Fiber is good for helping with weight loss and is low in calories; 1 cup cooked pumpkin only has 49 calories.
It Is a Smart Carb
If you cook it right and don’t add white sugar or artificial sweeteners, it is a smart carb. Learn all about Smart Carbs.
All of the above benefits from this alkaline superfood. Yes, it is an alkaline-forming food.
Pumpkin is considered safe for most people. One thing men may want to know is that it may cause ejaculation problems in some men.
Pumpkin Nutrition Facts
It is a ‘Low Fat Food’: Less than 15 percent of calories come from fat (if you don’t have a scoop of ice-cream on it). What’s more, pumpkin is a good source of fiber, which can help curb your appetite.
1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt
- Calories 49
- Protein 2 grams
- Carbohydrate 12 grams
- Dietary Fiber 3 grams
- Calcium 37 mg
- Iron 1.4 mg
- Magnesium 22 mg
- Potassium 564 mg
- Zinc 1 mg
- Selenium .50 mg
- Vitamin C 12 mg
- Niacin 1 mg
- Folate 21 mcg
- Vitamin A 2650 IU
- Vitamin E 3 mg
For full details go to Pumpkin Nutrition
Pumpkins are Big!
Mattias Willemyens, Belgian gardener broke a new Guinness world record by growing 1,190 kg (2,623.5 lbs) pumpkin in October 2016 ~ Sputnik Pumpkin Trivia
- The largest Canadian pumpkin was grown by Jim and Kelsey Bryson, in Ormstown, Quebec weighing 1,818.5 pounds in 2011. Their secret fertilizer was maple syrup!
- As many as 10,000 people around the word enter giant pumpkin contests each year, sometimes paying up to $1,500 for a single giant pumpkin seed.
- It isn’t a vegetable it is a fruit.
- There was no pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621, they served stewed pumpkin.
- They are 90% water.
- All the giant pumpkins now can be traced back to seeds developed by Canadian, Howard Dil in Nova Scotia; he was a giant pumpkin breeder and patented a pumpkin seed called Atlantic Giant.
- Largest pumpkin pie weighed 3,699 pounds! Follow the link at Pumpkin Nook to see a photo.
- They were at one time suggested as a cure for freckles.
- Pumpkins were used as a remedy for snake bites.
- Horses were fed pumpkin by Native Americans.
- They are gluten-free and the flour can be used in place of wheat flour.
- You will find them grown all over the world on all of the continents except Antarctica.
Are Pumpkins Magic
Are you ready for Halloween?
- The pumpkin superfood has more than any other vegetable been associated with the supernatural.
- Not sure why that is; maybe it’s because the size and shape of the average pumpkins are like a human head.
- The ancient custom of Jack-o-lanterns began when the Irish hollowed out gourds, beets, potatoes, and turnips to ward off evil spirits. They put a light in them to keep away evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. This is when Jack O’Lanterns began.
- “In the 1800s a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O’Lanterns.” ~ Pumpkin Nook
- In children’s stories, pumpkins were very much in Harry Potter, Cinderella, The Great Pumpkin, and Sleepy Hollow.
- “The largest jack o’lantern (weight) is 942.11 kg (2,077 lb), and was achieved by the Cosumnes Community Services District (USA) at the 24th annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival in Elk Grove, California, USA on 6 October 2018.” ~ Guinness World Records
Pumpkin Superfood History
- The oldest pumpkin seeds were discovered in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico by Archaeologists.
- They are thought to have originated 7,500 years ago in Central America.
- Native Americans ate pumpkins to help them live in the long winters.
- Native Americans used dried pumpkin strips weaving them into mats.
- When the white settlers saw the pumpkins, they soon made them a staple in their diets.
- The name originated from the Greek word “pepon.” The French changed “Pepon” into “pompon.” Then the English changed “pompon” to “Pumpion.” Colonists in America changed “pumpion” into “pumpkin.”
What Do They Taste Like?
It is best to get the small “sugar” pumpkins for making puddings and pies as they have more flavour than those very large pumpkins we use for Halloween.
The small ones are packed with more flavour and not watery like the large pumpkins. They are sweeter and become nuttier when roasted. Its flavour is similar to a sweet potato but with more of a squash texture.
How to Select
- It is important to choose the right one as they will taste better, last longer and look better too.
- Look for a smooth, evenly coloured skin. It should feel firm, not flexible in any way. Check over the whole pumpkin. Do not choose one with cuts, bruises, scratches or any mold.
- The best ones for eating are ‘sugar’ pumpkins.
- Keep an eye out for the smaller, “sugar” pumpkins for eating. These ‘sugar pumpkins are 8 to 10 inches in diameter and have smooth flesh.
- Do knock on the shell. A ripe one will make a hollow sound.
- If it is still on the vine, the vine should be dry with a hard brown stem.
- If you are simply choosing a pumpkin for carving then an unripened pumpkin might last longer.
How to Store
- It is best to store pumpkin in a cool, dry and dark place and not a hot and humid place, even if storing for only a couple of weeks.
- They are best stored on a board or cardboard. Do not put them on a cement floor, as they may rot.
It is fall and pumpkins are in season again! Soon we will see them as jack o’ lanterns for Halloween. Pumpkins are very good for us as they are nutrient-dense and there are many creative ways to add them to your meals.
Delicious Pumpkin Superfood Recipes For You to Make
Delightful Pumpkin Stew For One of Your Fall Meals – It is ‘Pumpkin Stew’ time because it is fall! This is when I start making lots of stews because they are heartening, nourishing and so easy to make. I have to say that summer is my favourite season, but there is so much beauty at this time of the year. I love walking amongst the beautiful fall leaves.
Delicious Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup – With onion, ginger, spices, and sweet pumpkin, this Halloween soup recipe for pumpkin soup is delicious! I love that it is vegan creamy without all that cow’s milk. The pumpkin seeds on top add a lovely crunch. I was given a very large pumpkin and did not know what to do with so much. So I created this fall recipe. I used one-quarter of it in this recipe so I froze the rest for more pumpkin soup later.
Pumpkin Pudding Is Vegan, Gluten-free and Delicious – This pumpkin pudding tastes great by itself or you can also put it in your favorite pie crust making ‘Pumpkin Pie’. What I love about it is that it is vegan and that means no cow’s milk. Also, it is refined sugar-free and full of delicious superfoods. Pumpkin is the main superfood in this recipe which is full of health benefits. Also, it is easy to make.
Learn more about some of the healthiest vegetarian foods you will always want to have in your pantry or growing on your deck.
READ: Superfoods – Over 100 of the Healthiest Foods You Should Have in Your Diet and learn more about the variety of Superfoods we think you should have in your diet.