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Pumpkin Power! The Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Fall is a nostalgic time of year in San Diego. The leaves are turning, you may need a sweater as it starts cooling off at night, and pumpkin is everywhere. We start to see pumpkin in everything from spiced lattes to ravioli. Fortunately, this popular orange member of the squash family packs a powerful punch when it comes to health benefits.

It’s time to join the pumpkin party and benefit from all of the healthy contributions pumpkin can make to a healthy diet. We’ve rounded up our top health benefits of pumpkin and our favorite healthy pumpkin recipes to bring these benefits right to your plate.


Top 5 Health Benefits of Pumpkin:


  • Pumpkins Are Good for Your Eyes:

Similar to carrots, pumpkins are rich in carotenoids and vitamin A, which can help improve eyesight. Just one cup of pumpkin has 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps vision, particularly in dim light. (Source: National Institutes of Health). The vitamin A also helps protect the eyes from cataracts and retinal degeneration.

Try this recipe to prepare pumpkin in a soup and keep your peepers sharp:

          • 6 cups chicken stock
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
          • 4 cups pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
          • 1 cup chopped onion
          • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
          • 1 clove garlic, minced
          • 1/2 cup coconut milk
          • 5 whole black peppercorns


          1. Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
          2. Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.
          3. Return to pan, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in coconut milk. Pour into soup bowls and serve.


  • Pumpkin Seeds Help You Sleep Better:

For those who lie awake restlessly thinking about everything they didn’t get done during the holidays, pumpkin seeds may be a solution. They are high in tryptophan, nature’s sedative. This amino acid is the same one that makes you sleepy after eating a Thanksgiving turkey, and also aides in the production of serotonin, which improves mood. Not only can eating pumpkin seeds make you sleepy, they will trigger feelings of well-being so that you sleep better!

The best way to enjoy pumpkin seeds is lightly roasted. Here’s how:

          • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
          • Spread seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet.
          • Drizzle with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the seeds and bottom of the baking sheet.
          • Toss the seeds on the baking sheet to spread the olive oil evenly.
          • Sprinkle the seeds to lightly coat them with your choice of spices (such as sea salt, cinnamon, smoked paprika, or oregano).
          • Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.


  • Pumpkins May Reduce the Risk of Cancer:

The high-levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene found in pumpkins may help prevent cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Consuming your beta-carotene from food sources rather than supplements has proven to be more effective in preventing cancer, so why not do it with pumpkin.

Try roasting pumpkin with other healthy fall vegetables rich in beta-carotene to help your body protect itself from cancer:


          • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
          • Peel and see your pumpkin and cut into 2-inch cubes.
          • Do the same for butternut squash.
          • Peel and cut carrots into large chunks.
          • Place vegetables into a large roasting tray.
          • Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss in the tray to coat the vegetables and the bottom of the tray lightly.
          • Lightly sprinkle sea salt, pepper and cumin over the vegetables and toss.
          • Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and brown on the edges.


  • Pumpkins Make Your Heart Healthier:

Studies have shown that diets high in fiber can reduce coronary heart disease by 40% in males. It has also been found to reduce heart disease in women by 25%. Fortunately, pumpkin has 3 grams of fiber per 1-cup serving. Fiber can also help with weight loss (which reduces stress on your heart) by making you feel full longer.


Another way that pumpkins are good for your heart is by lowering cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with a plant-based chemical called phytosterols, which researchers have found to reduce cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are also high in protein and plant based fatty acids, which help regulate cholesterol levels.

“If you don’t feel like cooking, but still want to get a drizzle of the health benefits of pumpkin in your diet, try substituting pumpkin seed oil in salad dressings and toppings.”


  • Pumpkins Boost Your Immune System:

Pumpkins are high in vitamin C, which gives the immune system a boost. Also, the high level of vitamin A in pumpkins has anti-aging properties that encourage collagen production for glowing skin and nails.


“Although we don’t recommend trying to boost your health with pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin smoothies are a delicious alternative. Try making this one at home!”

      • Place the following ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth!
      • 1 cup crushed ice
      • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
      • 1/2 ripe banana
      • 3/4 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
      • 1 tbsp honey
      • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
      • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract


There’s a reason pumpkin is the star of the fall season. It’s health benefits are extensive, as are the healthy ways it can be prepared. Do you have a favorite healthy pumpkin recipe to share? Tell us about it in the comments below!


If you have questions about the right diet to manage your chronic health issues, contact your doctor at Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups today!


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