The nutrients in pumpkin are really phenomenal. Extremely high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. Even pumpkin seeds carry nutrition, like protein, potassium, magnesium and fiber. They also boost your mood.
The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man. Indeed, a half-cup serving of pumpkin gives you more than two times the recommended daily dietary intake of alpha-carotene and 100 percent of the recommended daily dietary goal of beta-carotene. When you realize the tremendous benefits of these nutrients, you’ll see why pumpkin is such an extraordinary nutrition superstar.
Carotenoids are deep orange-, yellow-, or red-colored, fat-soluble compounds that occur in a variety of plants. They protect the plants from sun damage while they help them attract birds and insects for pollination. So far scientists have identified about 600 carotenoids, and more than 50 of them commonly occur in our diet. Not all dietary carotenoids are efficiently absorbed. As a result, only 34 carotenoids have currently been found in our blood and human breast milk.
Foods rich in carotenoids have been linked to a host of health- promoting and disease-fighting activities. They have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including those of the lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast and skin. In the landmark Nurses’ Health Study. Women with the highest concentrations of carotenes in their diets had the lowest risk of breast cancer.
Carotenoids have also shown great promise in their ability to lower rates of heart disease. In one 13-year-long study, researchers found a strong correlation between lower carotenoid concentrations in the blood and a higher rate of heart disease. As has frequently been found, the correlation between increased carotenoid consumption and decreased risk of heart disease was higher when all carotenoids, not just beta-carotene, were considered. Carotenoid consumption also decreases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Pumpkin is also a terrific source of fiber. Most people aren’t aware of the fiber content of canned pumpkin because it seems so creamy. Just one full-cup serving provides 5 grams of fiber—more than you’re getting from most supermarket cereals.