Guest post by Melissa Wright
Most people think of pumpkin as a seasonal fall treat: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake – the Thanksgiving-esque pumpkin food list goes on. However, there are several reasons why pumpkin should be a nutritious and flavorful addition to your regular everyday diet.
To begin with, pumpkin is high in potassium. Potassium is one of seven essential microminerals, and the average person should have at least 100 milligrams a day. Potassium can help even out blood pressure, and it also promotes heart health and bone strength. Pumpkin can do double duty for lowering blood pressure, as it not only has potassium, but phytoestrogens, which are plant-based, naturally occurring estrogens; both of these components aid in the lowering of blood pressure levels.
Additionally, pumpkin has high levels of antioxidants. The antioxidants that can be found in pumpkin may help protect against eye damage, especially for those who have the degenerative retinal condition retinitis pigmentosa. One of the most recognized antioxidants found in pumpkin is called beta-carotene. If beta-carotene sounds familiar, it’s because when the body digests it, it is converted into vitamin A (hence pumpkin’s orange color – an indicator of the presence of vitamin A). Beta-carotene can help protect against not only heart disease, as mentioned earlier, but it also can help protect against asthma. Moreover, this antioxidant can help protect against certain types of cancer. Studies suggest that beta-carotene may block the growth of unhealthy growths in the prostate. Furthermore, pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which helps promote male sexual health; research has found that decreasing zinc can significantly lower testosterone levels. Antioxidants have also been shown to defend the body against the side effects of aging.
Consuming pumpkin may also help with your sleep habits, especially if you eat the seeds. Have you ever heard that turkey can make you sleepy because of the tryptophan? (Cue the Seinfeld bass guitar.) Pumpkin seeds have a very high Tryptophan content and more importantly, an ideal ratio of Tryptophan to LNAAs. Tryptophan aids in the production of serotonin, which is responsible for making your body relax. Thus, consuming pumpkin in the evening may be helpful in promoting healthy sleep habits, which will increase overall functioning.
Pumpkin and its component vitamins and antioxidants can aid in the promotion of an overall healthy lifestyle. (To make it easier, pumpkin can also replace the eggs and oil in a baking recipe, and it yields a decadent dessert without any loss of flavor!) This type of squash is adaptable to many different flavors – particularly when using spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, or sage – and can be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes, making it a perfect addition to your daily food intake.
Domonell, Kristen. (October 7, 2014). “6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin.” http://dailyburn.com/life/health/pumpkin-health-benefits/
“Are Phytoestrogens Good or Bad for You? Separating Fact from Fiction.” https://draxe.com/phytoestrogens/
Gill, Karen. (January 5, 2018). “What are the health benefits of pumpkins?” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279610.php
Ware, Megan. (September 26, 2017). “Potassium: Health benefits and recommended intake.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287212.php