Native Americans roasted long strips of pumpkin over an open flame and ate them. Colonists made pumpkin pie by slicing off the pumpkin top; removing the seeds; filling the rind with milk, spices, and honey; and then baking the pumpkin over hot ashes. And we all know pumpkin transforms into Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween decor. Today, we appreciate pumpkin not just for culinary traditions, but we also appreciate the health benefits of pumpkin: its abundance of nutrients and versatility in healthy meal preparation, such as soufflés, soups, bread, jam, butter, and desserts.
A member of the Cucurbitaceae family of vegetables (along with cucumber and squash), pumpkin is cultivated around the world for both its fleshy vibrant orange meat and seeds. It is a naturally low calorie (49 calories per one cup serving), yet filling food that offers the following health benefits:
The Health Benefits of Pumpkin
- Pumpkin contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and many antioxidant vitamins, including A, C, and E.
- It is also an excellent source of many natural polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as beta-carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body. Zeaxanthin is a natural antioxidant that may offer protection from age-related macular disease.
- Pumpkin is a good source of the B-complex group of vitamins including niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid.
- It is a rich source of copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
- Pumpkin seeds provide dietary fiber and pack a powerful mix of protein, minerals, and vitamins: 100 g (1 cup) of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, plus folate, iron, niacin, selenium, and zinc.