It seems like every year we get more and more excited about pumpkin spice ~everything~ in the fall. The #PSL, pumpkin pie, and anything else we can manage to slap the word “pumpkin” in front of starts flying off the shelves the minute we reach September. Since this is the time of year that pumpkins are in season, it is the perfect time to be eating them. Yet each year we grow roughly 1.9 billion pounds of the plant in the US, with over 95% ending up in our landfills. We are pushing for artificial pumpkin flavored foods while passing up on the produce.
Perhaps this is because many people only enjoy the novelty of pumpkin flavor without understanding how eating pumpkin can benefit one's health. Like any fruit or vegetable, pumpkins have a unique set of essential vitamins and minerals that help our bodies operate at their best. We use pumpkin in every piece of our candy FAVES because we know how powerful this plant is at promoting good health. Read on to find out why pumpkins are so much more than a fall trend and should have a permanent place in your diet!
Some of you might think that this is a silly question, but there are many people who only understand pumpkins as being part of their fall decor. Pumpkins are a local superfood that originated in Central America about 7500 years ago (1). They are a part of the winter squash family, and (get ready to be mind-blown) they are categorized as a fruit. I know you may need a moment to take it in, but the pumpkin’s anatomy makes it fruit and not a vegetable! That is because fruits and vegetables are grouped more by their structure than their flavor.
Pumpkins grow on a vine throughout the summer months and ripen once the weather begins to chill. Pumpkins are one of the largest naturally growing fruits in the world. The largest pumpkin ever grown belonged to a man in Belgium, and it weighed just over 2600 pounds (2)! Pumpkins tend to be round with ribbed sides, and they are typically very hard on the outside, making them tough to break into and eat.
Now we are going to discuss why we should be eating more of these pumpkins rather than simply placing them on our porches and carving silly faces into them each October. Pumpkins contain high amounts of various nutrients that we need to keep our bodies functioning. That and they contain high amounts of water and fiber, which are also very important for maintaining your health. Here are the top vitamins found in pumpkins and how those vitamins impact our health.
Pumpkins are one of the best possible sources of vitamin A known to man. A single serving (1 cup) of pumpkin contains 245% of our daily vitamin A needs (3). Vitamin A is considered an “essential vitamin,” meaning that our bodies cannot create it on their own and it must be found in the diet (4). Nearly every cell in the body uses vitamin A because it helps to build cell walls. Vitamin A, therefore, is essential to keeping our skin healthy and our intestines functioning properly. This vitamin is also crucial for maintaining reproductive health, and pregnant women are more prone to vitamin A deficiency than non-pregnant women. Vitamin A is also important for immune health, and it also helps promote better eyesight in areas with low light (5).
Vitamin C is well-known for its ability to support our immune system. One serving of pumpkin can provide up to 19% of our daily vitamin C needs (6). Another name for vitamin C is ascorbic acid, and it is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help remove hazardous unstable compounds called “free radicals” from the body (7). These free radicals are known to cause cellular damage and are even associated with cancer formation. Reducing the number of circulating free-radicals also help lower inflammation in the body, which is exactly why vitamin C is good for our immune systems. Vitamin C also assists in the growth of collagen, which helps us foster healthy glowing skin. It also promotes the healing and growth of tendons and ligaments that support our bones.
Potassium is a nutrient that in the past was often overlooked, however; in recent years it has attracted more attention in how it affects our health. Potassium is used in basically every cell in the body. It is essential for nerve functioning as it allows for our nervous system to send and receive signals across the body (8). It is in this way that potassium helps to keep your heart beating regularly. Potassium is also used in the digestive system by helping to break down the foods we eat into glucose – which is the molecule that cells throughout the body harness for energy. Only 3% of people in the US get enough potassium, but one serving of pumpkin offers 16% of that daily need, making it a great food to add to your diet (9).
While the essential vitamins that pumpkins offer make the fruit an excellent addition to anyone's diet, there are even more ways it can help boost your health! For example, the health benefits of pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil make the entire plant useful after harvest. Many people use pumpkin seed oil as an alternative cooking oil, however, it can also be ingested for health purposes. Many people find that pumpkin seed oil, or pepita oil, can help reduce hair loss in older individuals. It may also help minimize symptoms of menopause in women (10).
The fruit of the pumpkin can also be used topically to aid in the health of one's skin. The high content of vitamins A, E, and C promote collagen growth and fight cellular damage. This makes it great for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and keeping the skin appearing youthful and hydrated (11).
Pumpkins are one of the healthiest things that we can incorporate into our diets. Rather than seeing them as only a fall decoration, we should all aim to learn how to cook and enjoy eating them as well. Boasting high quantities of vitamins A, C, and potassium; these fruits offer our bodies enormous health benefits. Even the pumpkin seeds can help to heal our bodies. Pumpkins stay ripe up to a week after carving, so even our annual Jack-O-Lanterns can be upcycled into a healthy dish and saved from the landfills. Looking for a fun way to enjoy the benefits of pumpkin? Try our candy FAVES (click here to try), which has organic pumpkin in every piece!