What is a pumpkin?
Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae or squash family and are large, round and vibrant orange with a slightly ribbed, tough yet smooth outer skin. Inside the pumpkin are the seeds and flesh. When cooked, the whole pumpkin is edible – the skin, pulp and seeds – you just need to remove the stringy bits which hold the seeds in place.
Nutritional profile of pumpkin
An 80g serving of pumpkin (boiled) provides:
- 10Kcal / 42KJ
- 0.5g Protein
- 0.2g Fat
- 1.5g Carbohydrate
- 1.4g Sugars
- 1.2g Fibre
- 67mg Potassium
- 764mcg Carotenes
- 6mg Vitamin C
Top 5 health benefits of pumpkin
1. May support healthy skin
Pumpkins are packed with skin-friendly 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 naturally made by the body, so it's important we get it from our diet, as it plays a part in the formation of collagen which keeps skin plump and firm, vitamin C also helps prevent bruising and promotes wound healing.
Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and works with vitamin C to help protect against sun damage and dryness. Vitamin A, or beta-carotene, is also involved in skin protection from the sun’s UVB rays and may help protect against sunburn, although sunscreen is still needed!
2. May support eye health
Low levels of vitamin A has been linked with reduced vision and even blindness. Beta-carotene, as well as vitamins C and E, help protect 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 colour, pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when consumed. Research has demonstrated that vitamin A plays an important role in promoting immune function. Vitamin C also contributes to immune activity facilitating immune cell activity and increasing 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 increases your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
A 2015 study in Japan found that diets high in carotenoids, which are pigments found in fruit and vegetables that give them their orange, yellow and green colours, may help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome.
5. May help prevent cancer
While there are no single ‘superfoods’ that can prevent cancer and certain risk factors for cancer are unrelated to diet, there is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer. In addition to this, the antioxidant properties of carotenoids, vitamins A and E, all of which are found in pumpkin, may protect against certain cancers, such as breast cancer.
Is pumpkin safe for everyone?
Generally safe for most people, there are some individuals who may experience allergy to pumpkin, this may be due to cross reactivity with other fruits from the same Cucurbitaceae family.
Chemicals in pumpkin seed appear to have a diuretic effect and consuming a large quantity in one go may increase the amount of fluid and electrolytes eliminated in the urine. If you are on certain prescribed medications, including lithium, you should refer to your GP or healthcare professional for further advice.
Healthy pumpkin recipes
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This article was last reviewed on 31 August 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both 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). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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