Pumpkins provide lots of vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Smaller but significant amounts of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus also are present.
What does that mean for us? The bright orange hints at the presence of a particularly beneficial phytonutrient: carotene. This converts to vitamin A in the body for a tremendous punch of antioxidants with the capacity to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and many of the degenerating signs of aging. Vitamin A is also a must for good vision and helping to prevent lung and mouth cancers. Flavonoids such as cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin destroy harmful free radicals, and the latter, especially, helps protect the retina of the eye from macular degeneration.
Pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty, easy-to-transport snack, you could also say they’re a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins, with 30 grams of protein, 110% of the daily value in iron and 559 calories, but no cholesterol, which is excellent for cardiovascular health. The fiber helps maintain regular elimination to keep the colon clear.
A special bonus in pumpkin seeds is the amino acid tryptophan, which, once in the brain, converts into GABA – a nutrient which relaxes the body, calms the nerves, improves sleep, and transmits signals between neurons.
Dietary intake of lycopene and other carotenoids was found to inhibit prostate cancer in studies done on 130 patients with the disease and 274 inpatients without. The prostate cancer risk declined with increasing consumption of lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin – all found in pumpkins. Intake of watermelon, citrus fruits, and three vegetables, including pumpkins, also was inversely associated with the prostate cancer risk.10
A University of Massachusetts study on obesity-linked, non-insulin-dependent diabetes and hypertension, higher in North America than anywhere, was linked to dietary changes toward high calorie foods such as sugar, refined grain flour, and sweetened beverages. Pumpkins, beans, and maize were looked at for potentials of phenolic phytochemicals and found to have a very positive inverse effect on diabetes and hypertension. Pumpkin showed the best overall potential in this regard.11
Most of a pumpkin’s health benefits come from its micronutrient content and the fact that it’s a fiber-filled, low-carb fruit.
While there aren’t many studies on pumpkin specifically, it is high in several nutrients that have established health benefits.
Pumpkin gives you a hefty dose of beta-carotene, which is partially converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A can help your body fight off infections (1,2,3).
Recent research has shown that vitamin A is particularly important for strengthening the intestinal lining, making it more resistant to infections (4).
Other micronutrients in pumpkin also help promote immunity, including vitamins C and E, iron and folate (5).
There are a couple of ways in which pumpkin is good for your eyes.
First, it’s rich in beta-carotene, which helps keep your vision sharp by helping the retina absorb light.
Second, the combination of other vitamins and minerals in pumpkin may protect against age-related macular degeneration*.
One study found that people with age-related macular degeneration could slow its progression by taking a supplement containing zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and copper (6).
While that study used a supplement, you can find all of these nutrients in pumpkin, although in smaller amounts.
The antioxidants found in pumpkin are important for skin health. These include beta-carotene and vitamins C and E.
Beta-carotene, in particular, may protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays (7,8).
Eating foods with beta-carotene can also help improve the appearance and texture of skin.
Eating fruits and vegetables is generally heart-healthy. What’s more, pumpkin has specific nutrients that are good for heart health.
The fiber, vitamin C and potassium found in it can help improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels*.
Eating foods rich in beta-carotene, such as pumpkin, may help lower your risk of metabolic syndrome (9).
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms associated with abdominal obesity. These include high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control and elevated triglyceride levels-factors that raise your risk of heart disease* and diabetes*.
Bottom Line: Most of the health benefits of pumpkin relate to its micronutrients, including beta-carotene and vitamin A.
1- Influence of nutrient-derived metabolites on lymphocyte immunity. Nat Med. 2015 Jul;21(7):709-18. doi: 10.1038/nm.3894. Epub 2015 Jun 29.
2- Vitamin A and the epigenome. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Jul 24;57(11):2404-2411. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1060940.
3- Cucurbita moschata Duch. and its active component, β-carotene effectively promote the immune responses through the activation of splenocytes and macrophages. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2016 Oct;38(5):319-26. doi: 10.1080/08923973.2016.1202960. Epub 2016 Jun 29.
4- Dietary and commensal derived nutrients: shaping mucosal and systemic immunity. Curr Opin Immunol. 2012 Aug;24(4):379-84. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2012.07.006. Epub 2012 Jul 31.
5- Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008 Sep; 8(9): 685–698.
6- The age-related eye disease study (AREDS). Nutr Rev. 2002 Sep;60(9):283-8.
7- Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 298–307.
8- β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Nov;96(5):1179S-84S.
9- High serum carotenoids associated with lower risk for the metabolic syndrome and its components among Japanese subjects: Mikkabi cohort study. Br J Nutr. 2015 Nov 28;114(10):1674-82.
10- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15514967, Do dietary lycopene and other carotenoids protect against prostate cancer? Nov. 2012
11- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17651062, Health benefits of traditional corn, beans, and pumpkin: in vitro studies for hyperglycemia and hypertension management, Nov. 2012
Why Freeze Drying vs. other less expensive drying methods?
Freeze drying, or Lyophilization is the most common processing method for removing moisture from biopharmaceuticals, and it can increase the stability, temperature tolerance, and shelf life of these products. Although Freeze drying is well established within the industry, it requires expensive equipment that takes up a great deal of space within a production facility. Freeze drying also can take days to complete, and manufacturers that need a powdered product must incorporate a granulation step to the process. In an environment where budgets are tightening, and where time and facility space are at a premium, Freeze drying might be a difficult option for some companies.
Freeze drying removes the water, not the flavor. So freeze dried foods retain virtually all their fresh food taste, vitamins and nutritional content. Weighs less than fresh Freeze dried foods have 98% of their water removed. This significantly reduces the food’s weight, making it easier to handle and less costly to transport.
Once freeze dried, food products have the following benefits:
Appearance – Freeze dried foods maintain their original shape and texture, unlike air dried foods which shrink and shrivel due to high temperature processing. Just add water and in minutes the food rehydrates to its original form.
Taste – Tastes as good as fresh. Freeze drying removes the water, not the flavor. So freeze dried foods retain virtually all their fresh food taste, vitamins and nutritional content.
Weight – Weighs less than fresh. Freeze dried foods have 98% of their water removed. This significantly reduces the food’s weight, making it easier to handle and less costly to transport.
Long Shelf Life – Freeze dried foods can be stored for months or years at room temperature without deterioration or spoilage.
Low Storage Costs – Because it can be stored at room temperature, freeze dried food does not require costly cold or chilled storage facilities, making it much cheaper to store.
Freeze Drying vs. Other Drying Methods: