Pumpkins are often the go-to Hallowe’en decoration, but did you know that this traditional seasonal food has a number of health benefits? From being pureed into soups, or roasted with spices, our experts explain how pumpkins can perk up your health..
1 Switch up your comfort foods
“Pumpkin flesh can be used in a similar way to sweet potatoes. But sweet potatoes can weigh in heavy in terms of calories and carbohydrates, containing around 85 calories and 20 grams of carbs per 100g – equivalent to up to 250 calories in a medium sweet potato. In contrast, pumpkin contains only around 25 to 35 calories and 6 grams of carbs per 100g – less than 100 calories for the same weight as that medium sweet potato. So, if you’re prone to comfort eating over the cold season, swap your potato or sweet potato for pumpkin to help avoid winter weight gain,” advises Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor Cassandra Barns.
2 Support your skin
“Pumpkin, along with vegetables such as carrots and squash, contain high levels of beta carotene and other carotenoids, which give them their lovely orange colour. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in our body, which is one of the most important nutrients for skin integrity (meaning skin that is firm resists damage and can heal quickly). Beta-carotene itself may also help to prevent free radical damage to our cells that can result in ageing, as it works as an antioxidant. The orange vegetables are delicious as a basis for stews and soups in the winter, or roasted with other vegetables such as peppers, red onions and beetroot,” says Dr. Marilyn Glenville, author of The Natural Health Bible for Women.
3 Get your sex drive back in action
If oysters don’t tickle your fancy, pumpkin seeds could be the next best food to help get you ‘in the mood.’ “A loss of libido could be linked to a decrease in testosterone, a hormone found in men and women. Low levels are associated with sluggishness, fatigue, loss of interest in sex and brain fogginess. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which helps to boost testosterone production,” says Cassandra.
4 Sleep like a baby
To get the benefits from pumpkin seeds and help keep you feel fuller for longer opt for the vegan and organic, Natures Plus Pumpkin Seed Protein (£25.50, naturesplus.co.uk).“Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium. This vital mineral is often called ‘nature’s tranquiliser,’ as it can help us feel calm and relaxed. It is also thought that magnesium has a role in the normal function of the pineal gland, which produces melatonin – a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps us to fall asleep,” explains Cassandra.
5 Prevent colds and flu
“Eating pumpkin can be a great way to help fend off winter bugs. Pumpkin flesh contains a decent amount of vitamin C and A – a critical immune system supporting nutrient. Make a big batch of warming pumpkin soup with ginger and spices for cold winter evenings,” suggests Cassandra.
6 Give your vision a boost
“Two carotenoids found in pumpkin – lutein and zeaxanthin – help protect our eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow pigments that accumulate in the macula of the eye – the part of the retina responsible for our sharpest, central vision. They’re thought to help filter out damaging blue light, protecting our eyesight and even helping to prevent conditions, such as macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness).
“Vitamin A from carotenoids is also critical for vision. It plays a role in the perception of light by the cells in our retina and sending signals to the brain to be converted to images that we see. So carrots – and pumpkins – not only help us see in the dark, but help us see in any light!” explains Cassandra.