Pumpkins are considered a powerhouse source of health benefits. As with most orange-colored fruits and vegetables, pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin A. Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, pumpkins are also low in fat, low in calories and loaded with potassium, vitamin C and beta carotene. Not only is the pulp bursting with essential nutrients, pumpkin seeds are a healthy source of zinc.
As a powerhouse of health benefits, it’s no surprise that the pumpkin has also been touted for its ability to reduce the risks of prostate issues to curing a variety of cancers. When it comes to anti-cancer benefits, it’s the high levels of B-carotene in pumpkin — as with all orange, yellow and red colored fruits and vegetables — that may offer some cancer protection.
Whether you get your vitamin A from orange fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, yams or oranges, pumpkin is certainly a source that should not be overlooked. Studies published in the Journal of Chromatography showed that pumpkin is an extremely rich source of Beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant known to be effective for:
- Treating sun sensitivity and preventing sunburn in people with erythropoietic protoporphyria
- Reducing the risk of breast cancer before menopause
- Treating some age-related eye diseases
- For asthma suffers, B-carotene can prevent attacks triggered by exercise
- Stabilizing Osteoarthritis by preventing the condition from worsening. This is not to be confused with preventing Osteoarthritis.
- Improves strength and physical performance in the elderly
- For smokers, beta-carotene from natural foods has shown to prevent bronchitis. B-carotene supplements do not provide this same effect
- Reducing the risk of ovarian cancer after menopause
- Treating leukoplakia, an oral tongue disease
Beta-carotene is part of the carotenes and is considered a provitamin because it can be converted to vitamin A. Deficiency in vitamin A can lead to a range of serious health issues including drying of the cornea of the eye, to disorders of the reproductive system to abnormal bone development.
Zinc, which can be found in the seeds of all gourds, is an essential trace element that aids in the functioning of over 300 enzymes and is key in numerous biological processes throughout the body. It plays a role in everything from the maturation of sperm to sensory development including smell, vision and taste. The amount of zinc required is determined by age. It is recommended that adult men get 11 mg of zinc per day, while women need 8 mg. A full chart of recommendations can be found at the Office of Dietary Supplements.
There does not seem to be a lot of nutritional difference between canned versus fresh pumpkin. Although fresh is generally preferred, canned pumpkin still offers equivalent nutritional health benefits. To get the maximum advantage of using canned pumpkin, read the label to find canned pumpkin that is “100% pumpkin” instead of buying canned pumpkin “pie mix” as the latter will always contain more calories. To use fresh pumpkin, store your gourd in a dark cool place for up to two months.