Tomorrow is Halloween and right around the corner comes Thanksgiving. It’s officially pumpkin season! Not only is it delicious when paired with the right spices and baked into a pie curst (even a gluten-free crust); pumpkin has a handful of health benefits! Here are the four great health benefits of everyone’s favorite fall gourd.
Pumpkin + Weight Loss
Fiber. Pumpkin meat and seeds contain fiber, which helps with weight loss and also helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. An increase in fiber keeps the digestive tract moving, and it makes you feel fuller longer.
Keeping away parasites. As I often tell my patients, weight loss requires balance of four things: diet, exercise, hormones and gut function. One hindrance of proper gut function is the presence of parasites, which are more common than we realize. Parasites can cause bloating, constipation, frequent diarrhea and fatigue. When you are carving those jack-o-lanterns, don’t throw out the seeds! In the past, pumpkin seeds were used as a treatment for intestinal parasites and have been shown to help the body rid them.
Pumpkin + Eyes
Eat more orange. The vitamin A in pumpkin, or beta carotene, is what gives pumpkin it’s orange color. Beta carotene helps protect the surface of the eye. Studies have shown that a diet rich in vitamin A helps to reduce the risk of developing cataracts—a very common cause for vision loss. (The Blue Mountains Eye Study published in the Journal of Ophthalmology in 2000)
Another study found that a combination of beta carotene (vitamin A found in pumpkin meat), vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc helped to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration—another cause for vision loss (the AREDS study). As I tell my patients often—getting these nutrients from the diet in their natural forms is better than taking it as supplements.
Pumpkins + Heart Health
Again, fiber! Pumpkin is full of soluble fiber, which is shown to help lower cholesterol (LDL), lower blood pressure, improve weight control and improve insulin resistance (Anderson, 1999). Pumpkin has about .5 gram of fiber per 100 grams (or .6 grams/cup). Global health studies show that there are lots of benefits to a diet full of fiber and that adding 10g per day can significantly decrease risk in all heart disease events (Wolk, 1999). High fiber diets help to prevent many of the risks associated with cardiovascular disease; and conventional guidelines recommends a diet with 10-25 grams of soluble fiber (ATP III Panel).
Pumpkin + Bedroom
Testosterone booster. The high zinc content in pumpkin can actually give men a boost in the bedroom. Zinc helps to promote testosterone synthesis. I see lots of men with low testosterone that are suffering in the bedroom, and I always recommend foods that are high in zinc to help them naturally boost their testosterone. Pumpkin seed is always on my list!
Now you have even more reason to pickup an occasional pumpkin spice latte (since it now has real pumpkin) and enjoy helping of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner!