If fall had a mascot, pumpkin would be it. From pumpkin spice lattes to classic pumpkin pie, the celebrity squash seriously shines during the autumn months, and for good reason, too: It’s versatile, delicious, and insanely nutritious. Discover 6 health benefits of pumpkin, according to nutritionists and dietitians (plus, healthy recipes to feature it in).
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1. Maintains eye health
Pumpkin gets its iconic orange color from beta-carotene, a pigment that’s converted to vitamin A in the body. This is great news for your eyes, as “vitamin A is crucial for healthy eyesight,” says Bansari Acharya, R.D.N., registered dietitian and nutritionist at FoodLove. It also supports proper functioning of the rods in the eye’s retina, she adds, which is essential for seeing in the dark (as well as trick-or-treating!).
2. Enhances immunity
Looking for a tasty way to help boost your immune system? Pumpkin offers vitamin C, which “enhances white blood cell function and increases antibody levels,” says registered dietitian and chef Abbie Gellman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. The beta-carotene in pumpkin also supports white blood cells, she notes, ensuring they can efficiently fight infection when duty calls. Try adding pumpkin to your morning smoothie.
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3. Increases satiety
This seasonal squash contains fiber, which causes a slow rise in blood sugar—instead of a crazy spike. In turn, that fiber helps increase a sense of fullness and therefore controls appetite, according to the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Why not start your day with a filling pumpkin muffin?
4. Promotes regular digestion
The fiber in pumpkin can also help alleviate constipation. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fiber softens the stool and promotes regularity, making it a healthy contributor to normal bowel movements. Try adding pumpkin to hearty dishes like chili or stew.
5. Controls blood pressure
As a high-potassium food, pumpkin can help regulate blood pressure. “Potassium [helps] to ease the tension on the blood vessel walls,” explains Acharya. For a tasty way to serve up pumpkin in a low-sodium dip, try this pumpkin hummus.
6. Calms the mind
There’s nothing like a warm pumpkin dish (like pumpkin soup) to bring on the feel-good vibes. But if you’re preparing fresh pumpkin, the seeds can also lend a hand. “Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, [which] can alleviate anxiety by inducing a calming effect,” notes Acharya.
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