Pumpkins appear en masse around October in the shops and then soon after Halloween they disappear. Often overlooked for its nutritional value this vegetable is scarily packed with a variety of dietary benefits:
1. Very low in calories – with 26 calories p/100 grams compared to sweet potato having 86 calories p/100grams for example. Pumpkins are also high in fibre and contain a small amount of protein.
2. Increases sports performance – pumpkins are a potassium heavyweight with 200 grams containing a whopping 564mg of potassium. If you train or compete you may need more potassium to replace the amount lost from muscle during exercise and sweat. Low levels of potassium can cause muscle cramping.
3. Keep your eyesight sharp – containing more than 2,400mcg of carotenoids leutin and zeaxanthin which are key players in eye health. This coupled with good levels of Vitamin A in a pumpkin helps the eyes see better in low level light environments.
4. Increased heart function – the seeds from a pumpkin are rich in plant based chemicals called phytosterols which have been shown to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol.
5. Mood boosting – Pumpkins are rich in the amino acid tryptophan; this amino acid plays a role in the production of serotonin which is a major player when it comes to our mood.
6. Good antioxidant – pumpkins contain beta-carotene which is an antioxidant – one of the roles of antioxidants is to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals damage cells through oxidation which can cause illness. Several studies have shown antioxidants through the diet helps peoples immune system and lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
7. Keep skin wrinkles away – high in vitamin C pumpkins can help protect the skin from free radical damage and keep you looking younger for longer.
8. Supports muscle growth – the seeds are a great source of zinc (responsible for cell metabolism) and magnesium (important cofactor in ATP energy production) this coupled with protein as mentioned will go a long way to support muscle growth.
9. Weight loss – rich in fibre which helps slow down digestion keeping you fuller for longer keeping those cravings at bay between meals.
10. Good workout – carving a pumpkin for Halloween can be a good workout or the arms and rotator cuff as carving a pumpkin is not as easy as it looks