Though the extent of the nutritional value of pumpkin is not fully understood, the pumpkin fruit and its related parts provide a surprisingly wide range of essential vitamins and nutrients - like vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium - which are important for maintaining overall health and well-being.
Essential Nutrients in Pumpkin
Plant beta-carotenes play a key role in pumpkin nutrition, since they are necessary for the production of vitamin A (retinol). Besides dairy products and fish oils, brightly-colored orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of vitamin A. Pumpkin is chock-full of this fat-soluble compound, which helps maintain healthy vision by supporting the eyes' ability to adjust to darkness, and it is also responsible for promoting healthy skin. Vitamin A is needed for cellular growth and bone health, and it also supports both the immune system and reproductive system.
Found primarily in vegetable oils, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables, vitamin E is also present in pumpkins. This is a powerful antioxidant that works to thwart the harmful effects of free radicals found in the body. It also supports the immune system so that the body can protect itself from foreign bacteria and illnesses, and it widens blood vessels to prevent clotting.
Pumpkins are also a source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which helps to maintain healthy skin by protecting cells from free radicals while supporting the immune system. Moreover, vitamin C is vital in the production of collagen, which is necessary for wound healing. A vitamin C deficiency is known to cause scurvy, which is associated with the loss of hair and teeth; sore, swollen gums; and fatigue.
Magnesium is a great addition to pumpkin's nutritional value. This mineral is responsible for the production of energy, and also regulates protein synthesis, blood pressure, and glucose levels. A lack of magnesium in the diet may cause nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in mild cases, and muscle spasms and seizures in more severe cases. Additionally, pumpkins are a good source of protein, which is also used to create energy and to help the body build and repair tissues.
To build protein and muscle, the body uses a mineral called potassium, which can be found in pumpkin. A diet that is low in sodium and high in potassium may lower high blood pressure levels over time. Though the amount of potassium in pumpkins is only about 230 mg per 100-gram serving, it works together with other minerals to produce a hypotensive effect.
Finally, zinc is a vital mineral responsible for acting as a catalyst for nearly 100 different enzymes. Pumpkin's nutritional content of zinc plays a crucial role in wound healing and protein synthesis while supporting healthy growth and development, especially during the formative years of pregnancy and early childhood.
Pumpkin's Supporting Compounds
In addition to the aforementioned nutritional content of pumpkin, this fruit boasts phyto-constituents that aid its anti-diabetic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids, for example, are compounds whose consumption may help to prevent certain cardiovascular diseases. Oleic acids are healing, anti-inflammatory nutrients which are thought to be beneficial treatments for inflammatory diseases, like prostate enlargement. Meanwhile, linoleic acids may help the body to maintain a healthy weight.
Pumpkin Nutritional Facts
Here are more nutritional facts about pumpkin that may help to further illuminate the benefits of this delicious fruit:
- A mere 100-gram serving of cooked pumpkin provides about 36% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A.
- Low in calories and made up of about 90% water, pumpkin can be used to fight dehydration.
- Pumpkin leaves are edible and may be prepared like other dark green, leafy vegetables. They provide almost as much iron as spinach, and nearly three times as much as kale.
- Pumpkin seeds are made up of about 50% vitamin E, an important nutrient that may help to lower blood pressure by widening blood vessels and preventing clotting.
- A pumpkin's pulp contains more than twice as much vitamin C as its seeds.
- A one-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds yields about 19% of the recommended daily intake of protein, which builds strong muscles.
Though there is still quite a bit of research to be done regarding pumpkin nutrition, many scientific studies have already shed light on pumpkin's nutritional content. Pumpkins are wholesome foods full of essential vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial for the overall health of the human body. To this end, pumpkins may be a wise addition to any healthy, well-balanced diet.
- European Food Research & Technology, Variability of vitamin E content in pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita pepo L), 1996
- International Journal of Food Science and Technology, Vitamins composition of pulp, seed and rind of fresh and dry Rambutan Nephelium Lappaceum and squash Cucurbita pepo’L, 2013
- National Institutes of Health, Zinc | Magnesium | Vitamin E | Vitamin C | Vitamin A
- Nutrition Research Reviews, Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review, 2010
- USDA Nutrient Database
- Power Foods, pp. 25, 57, 358, 371