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Perhaps nothing is more synonymous with the fall season than pumpkins. Carved pumpkins, pumpkin pies, and pumpkin bread can be found in nearly every home, store, and farm stand. But did you know that pumpkins, their seeds, and their seed oil all provide massive health benefits?
This amazing fruit (you read that correctly: pumpkins are a fruit!) is absolutely packed with nutrients and a great source of vitamins A, C, and E. Let’s take a look at the amazing health benefits of pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin seed oil.
Supports the Immune System
As indicated by their bright orange color, pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when consumed. Research has demonstrated that vitamin A plays an important role in promoting immune function. Vitamin C also contributes to immune activity facilitating immune cell activity and increasing white blood cells.
Antioxidants help fight off disease-causing free radicals in the body by preventing damage to cells involved in the immune response. Fortunately, pumpkins contain high levels of vitamins A and C, which are both antioxidants.
Supports Heart Health
Pumpkin contains fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, and is also naturally low in sodium — all of which support healthy blood pressure, which is a great way to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Ever heard of metabolic syndrome? It’s the medical name for a combination of conditions including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Collectively, these conditions increase your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. A 2015 study in Japan found that diets high in carotenoids may help prevent the development of metabolic syndrome.
Supports Healthier Skin
Pumpkins are packed with skin-friendly nutrients, including vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene, all of which play an important role in the health of our skin. Vitamin C is not naturally made by the body, so it’s important we get it from our diet, as it plays a part in the formation of collagen which keeps skin plump and firm, vitamin C also helps prevent bruising and promotes wound healing. Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and works with vitamin C to help protect against sun damage and dryness.
Pumpkin Seed Benefits
Lowers Your Cancer Risk
Diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers. A large observational study found that eating them was associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Other studies suggest that the lignans in pumpkin seeds may play a key role in preventing and treating breast cancer.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to scavenge the free radicals that can damage cells. In addition to reducing inflammation, antioxidants help fend off premature aging and chronic diseases.
Packed with Essential Nutrients
Raw pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) are a good source of magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc, and copper. Magnesium helps improve mood and sleep, while manganese plays a role in collagen production and promotes skin and bone health. Iron and copper are involved with energy production, and iron also helps transport oxygen to our cells. Zinc supports immunity, skin health, and vision. Eating just one serving of pumpkin seeds can supply up to 42% of the daily target for these essential nutrients.
Improves Prostate Health
As many as 20% of all men will experience prostate issues in their lifetime. Over 30 million Americans suffer from bladder problems. But did you know that pumpkin seeds may help relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)? BPH is a condition in which the prostate gland enlarges, causing problems with urination. Several studies in humans found that eating these seeds reduced symptoms associated with BPH.
In a one-year study in over 1,400 men with BPH, pumpkin seed consumption reduced symptoms and improved quality of life. Further research suggests that taking pumpkin seeds or their products as supplements can help treat symptoms of an overactive bladder. One study found that just 10 grams of pumpkin seed extract daily improved urinary function
Pumpkin Seed Oil Benefits
As men age, an enlarged prostate can often make urination painful or difficult and can increase their chances of developing prostate cancer. Fortunately, research on pumpkin seed oil has shown that it may improve urine flow and may decrease inflammation of the prostate, thereby protecting men against one of the deadliest forms of cancer.
According to a 2018 study by the Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, pumpkin seed extracts may be very helpful in lowering the risk of colon cancer. The lignans and flavones present in pumpkin seed extracts might have a good effect on hormone-dependent tumors and therefore, studies suggest that pumpkin seeds and it’s extracts like oil can play a key role in breast cancer prevention or treatment.
Improves Eye Health
Cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil contains a high concentration of zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that can help protect eyes from UV rays and blue light. In fact research shows that carotenoids can help to protect against a variety of conditions including cardiovascular diseases, several types of cancer, and eye-related disorders.
Zeaxanthin in pumpkin seed oil acts as a powerful antioxidant, and may actually help to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects your visual acuity as you age, causing blurred vision, failure to see in dim light or even partial or complete vision loss.
Research shows that dietary antioxidants and anti-inflammatories may provide benefits in decreasing the risk of age-related eye disease. Pumpkin seed oil supplements are a concentrated source of all the beneficial vitamins found in the seeds, such as vitamins A and C, as well as powerful antioxidants and minerals that can be highly beneficial in improving vision.
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil have long been known to boost mood and alleviate the symptoms of depression. Also, those who suffer from mental health issues commonly have certain nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of essential fatty acids, amino acids, and certain vitamins and minerals.
Amino acids such as tryptophan, are the precursors for neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the “feel good” hormone important for regulating mood. On its own, serotonin does not cross the blood-brain barrier, however tryptophan does, which is found in proteins, but competes with other amino acids for absorption.
Consuming foods that have a high tryptophan to total protein ratio – such as pumpkin seeds – are excellent for boosting serotonin levels and improving the symptoms of depression. Research has shown that participants suffering from social phobia, who consumed pumpkin seeds showed “significant improvement” in their anxiety levels.
As you can see, pumpkins offer a plethora of health benefits from cancer prevention to healthier skin. But they’re also delicious! Check out Charlene’s recipe below for a gluten-free pumpkin pie that is guaranteed to be a hit at your next gathering.