Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on September 14, 2022
4 min read

Pumpkin can add a pop of color to your plate and a lot of nutrients to your diet. It also boasts zero fat, cholesterol, or sodium. You can eat both the hearty flesh and delicious seeds of this large fruit. Although pumpkins have an earthy, slightly sweet taste, they’re often combined with spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon to flavor desserts and seasonal beverages.

In the autumn months, pumpkins are readily available in stores and at farms. They’re also available year-round as a canned puree. Canned pumpkin offers the same health benefits as fresh pumpkin, making it quick and easy to add pumpkin to recipes year-round. Pumpkin seeds are typically roasted and sold separately as a snack or topping.

Pumpkin is low in calories and high in nutrition, so it can help with weight loss. You can eat more of it while sticking to your calorie goals without feeling hungry or deprived.

Plus, pumpkin can provide more health benefits like: 

Disease Prevention

The bold orange color of a ripe pumpkin means it is packed with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. 

Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals — atoms that cause tiny injuries to cells. Over time, the damage can lead to diseases like cancer and dementia. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, keeping them from harming cells .

If tumor cells do start to form, beta-carotene can jump in and hinder their growth. Beta-carotene also triggers the body to release natural killer cells that attack and destroy tumors.

Good Eyesight

While beta-carotene guards cells from free-radicals, the body is changing it into vitamin A. The body then uses vitamin A to make a protein needed for the eyes to work properly. Vitamin A also supports other parts of the eye such as the cornea, which focuses light so you can see clearly.

Not only that, but Vitamin A is important for healthy skin, bones, lungs, and kidneys. Both beta-carotene and vitamin A are best obtained from foods like pumpkin, not pills.

Heart Health

Pumpkin is recommended as part of a heart-healthy diet that may help lower your risk of heart disease. It offers a long list of nutrients that protect and support the heart, such as vitamins A, B1, B6, and C, copper, fiber, folate, and manganese.

Pumpkin provides calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which can help keep your heartbeat regular and your blood pressure low.

The fiber in pumpkin can also play a part in lowering blood pressure as well as cholesterol. In addition, the fiber in pumpkin makes you feel full promoting weight loss.

Pumpkin is good source of vitamins and minerals like:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • iron
  • copper
  • manganese
  • potassium

Nutrients per Serving

One cup of raw pumpkin (1-inch cubes) has:

  • Calories: 30
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 7 1/2 grams
  • Fiber: 1/2 gram
  • Sugar: 3 grams

1/2 cup of canned pumpkin without salt contains:

  • Calories: 50
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 11 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 4 grams

Things to Watch Out For

Although pumpkin is typically safe to eat and offers impressive health benefits, it’s often combined with high-sugar and fat ingredients. When shopping for canned pumpkin, check the label to make sure you're getting 100% pumpkin puree with no added sugar or salt. Pumpkin pies, pumpkin rolls, and pumpkin spice lattes are usually loaded with sugar, so save these desserts for special occasions like Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin seed shells are safe to eat and an excellent source of fiber. However, the shells can trigger uncomfortable symptoms for people with digestive conditions. Shelled pumpkin seeds are a safer option for people with digestive concerns.

Pumpkin is a great addition to any meal. This versatile fruit can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. An autumn favorite, you can buy fresh pumpkins in grocery stores across the country in September and October. If you want to cook with fresh pumpkin, you’ll need to do some prep work. First, split the pumpkin in two and use a spoon to remove the seeds and stringy flesh on the inside. Next, use a small knife to pare off the skin of the pumpkin. If you don’t want to deal with these messy preparations, you can use canned pumpkin in many recipes.

Pumpkin will boost the nutrition of your dish, help thicken it, and make it more filling and hearty. Here are some healthy, tasty ways to work pumpkin into your diet:

  1. Pumpkin Parfait: Layer pumpkin puree over plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, drizzle on maple syrup, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with granola or raw pecan pieces and enjoy.
  2. Healthy Baked Goods: If you’re making pancakes, quick bread, brownies, cookies, or muffins, use pumpkin to replace some of the butter or oil in the recipe. 
  3. Smoothies: Mix pumpkin into a smoothie with yogurt, fruit, and honey.
  4. Pasta Sauces: Stir pumpkin puree into your spaghetti sauce before warming it. Experiment with amounts, starting with one cup of puree for a 24-ounce jar of sauce. Taste before serving – you may want to add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, and/or salt. 
  5. Soups & Stews: Use pumpkin puree to thicken your soups and stews. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.