As well as its uplifting orange colour, pumpkin is jam-packed with nutrients and taste. It fits nicely with all your autumn/winter dishes: add the bright-coloured flesh to a hearty winter stew, or toast the seeds for a crunchy soup topping. So get it while you can – because pumpkin, which originated in North America, is only in season in the UK for a relatively short time, between October and December, it’s one of those rare cold weather delights that makes you look forward to winter.
If you haven’t already hotfooted it to the supermarket, we’ve chatted to Tiffany DeWitt, dietitian at global healthcare company Abbott, who has rounded up six of the most important health benefits of pumpkin:
1 Fill up with fibre
Pumpkin is a great source of fibre, with three grams in every cup (approximately 225g). Incorporating fibre can help you feel fuller for longer, so it can help you get from one meal to the next. Other benefits of fibre include:
Reducing the risk of heart disease
Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
Improving gut health
Strengthening the immune system
2 Improved memory and concentration
Pumpkins are an excellent source of lutein, recognised for its role in eye health. Lutein can also improve cognitive function, including learning, memory, concentration and focus.
In fact, supplementation of lutein and another carotenoid called zeaxanthin may help improve visual processing speed, according to a study in the journal Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
3 A stronger immune system
Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and zinc, all antioxidants that strengthen the immune system. Pumpkin also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant plant pigment that gives pumpkin its bright orange colour.
4 Sharper eyesight
Thanks to the beta-carotene and carotenoids it contains, pumpkin may help reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related eye degeneration and cataracts.
To increase your daily intake of vitamin A, you can easily add one cup (approximately 225g) of cooked, mashed pumpkin to your daily smoothie or morning oats. One serving alone packs more than 200 percent of your recommend daily intake of vitamin A – an essential nutrient for eye health.
5 A stronger heart
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of phytoestrogens, plant-derived compounds that when incorporated into a healthy diet and lifestyle, have been shown to manage cholesterol and improve heart health.
6 Better sleep and mood
Pumpkin seeds in particular are an excellent source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is converted to serotonin, a chemical associated with healthy sleep and happiness. Since the body cannot make tryptophan on its own, pumpkin seeds are an easy, versatile way to add it into your diet.