The health benefits of pumpkin

Rich in vital vitamins and minerals, discover what makes pumpkin so good for you, plus healthy recipe ideas to use up your Halloween leftovers.

A bright orange pumpkin cut into chunks with the seeds scattered on a table

What is a pumpkin?

Pumpkins are part of the squash family and they are usually large, round and vibrant orange with a slightly ribbed, tough and 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 benefits of pumpkin

Pumpkin is a great source of potassium and beta-carotene, which is a carotenoid that converts to vitamin A. It also contains some minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.

Discover more about why we need vitamins and minerals.

How much pumpkin counts as one of your 5-a-day?

80g of pumpkin (roughly 3 heaped tablespoons, diced and cooked) counts as one portion of your five-a-day. Take a look at our printable infographic to discover what counts as 5-a-day.

Is pumpkin good for healthy skin?

Pumpkin contains vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene, all of which have been found to play an important role in the health of our skin

Vitamin C is not naturally made by the body and so it is important we get it from the diet every day, as it plays a part in collagen formation, helps to prevent bruising and helps with wound healing.

Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and acts together with vitamin C, helping to protect against sun damage and prevent dryness of the skin. 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 required!

Read more about what to eat for healthy skin.

Healthy pumpkin hummus served in a hollowed-out pumpkin with vegetable sticks

Is pumpkin good for eye health?

A deficiency of vitamin A has been linked with reduced vision or even blindness. Beta-carotene, as well as vitamins C and E, can help protect eyes and reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases.

Can pumpkin help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is the medical name for a combination of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure which collectively then 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.

Can pumpkin 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 supporting the immune system, of which around 80% is in the digestive system. Further research suggests that diet, including vitamin A, has a direct effect on immune system function.

Can pumpkin 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. There is some evidence to suggest that the antioxidant properties of carotenoids, vitamin A and vitamin E, all of which are found in pumpkin, may protect against breast cancer.

There has also been research into the role carotenoids play in reducing lung cancer, but so far this has not proven to be statistically significant.

Healthy pumpkin recipes

Pumpkin hummus
Creamy pumpkin & lentil soup
Chicken with pumpkin & chickpeas
More healthy pumpkin & squash recipes

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The health benefits of beetroot
The health benefits of tofu
More health benefits guides


This article was published on 24th October 2017.

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.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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