What are the benefits of eating pumpkin?

Kelsey Brown, BSc


October 31, 2023

Like many others this Halloween, you may partake in the tradition of carving faces into pumpkins, but did you know that pumpkins are a great source of a variety of nutrients? All parts of the pumpkin (flesh, seeds, and peel) can be consumed and have beneficial effects on our health. 

Pumpkin peel

Fruit and vegetable peels are often discarded, however, they are a good source of nutrients, so it is beneficial to consume the peel as well as the flesh and seeds. Pumpkin peel is known to be a rich source of polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrate), carotenoids, (the pigments that give the pumpkin its colour), tocopherol (vitamin E) and vitamin C, which are all known to have antioxidant effects. 

Antioxidants are important for protecting against oxidative stress: damage to cells and tissues caused by the build-up of highly reactive molecules known as reactive oxygen species. Antioxidants help to stabilise and deactivate these harmful molecules, thereby reducing tissue damage and helping to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or other health conditions.   

Pumpkin flesh

Like the peel, the flesh of a pumpkin is a good source of antioxidants. Pumpkin flesh is also a good source of dietary fibre, such as pectin, which can help to slow down starch digestion, contribute to a normal blood cholesterol level, and can slow the sharp rise in blood glucose following a meal. 

The flesh of a pumpkin also contains good amounts of magnesium (12 mg per 100 g serving) and potassium (340 mg per 100 g serving). However, more can be found in the seeds with roughly 190 mg of magnesium and 397 mg of potassium in a 32 g serving.  Magnesium is important for blood pressure regulation and can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Potassium also has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, with higher potassium intake associated with a decrease in hypertension (high blood pressure). 

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a healthy source of fats due to their high content of poly- and monounsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The most common form of monounsaturated fatty acids in our diet is oleic acid (omega-9). These fatty acids also help to reduce cardiovascular disease risk by promoting a healthy blood lipid profile, reducing your risk of high cholesterol and regulating your blood pressure. Monounsaturated fatty acids also help to improve insulin sensitivity and glycaemic control, maintaining blood glucose levels. 

As well as being a healthy source of fats, pumpkin seeds are also high in minerals such as iron and zinc. Iron is an essential mineral involved in transporting oxygen around the body and producing energy. As we are unable to create iron in our bodies, we must obtain this from our diet. Zinc is another important mineral that plays a role in developing our immune system and also acts as an antioxidant helping to reduce oxidative stress. 

How to use a whole pumpkin

So next time you’re off to buy a pumpkin to carve, take advantage of its wide range of nutritional benefits and consider buying another pumpkin simply to eat. You can roast a pumpkin whole by cutting it in half, de-seeding (make sure to save the seeds!), brushing the pumpkin with some oil and baking it in the oven. You could then use the pumpkin in a meal with some chicken and potatoes for example, or you could blend it into a puree to use in pasta sauce or soup. 

You can also roast pumpkin seeds by washing them thoroughly and drying them, then coating in some oil to have as a snack or to add to salads. You can even try adding some spices like cumin and paprika to mix the flavour up.


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Kelsey Brown, BSc

Kelsey holds a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science (University of Winchester) and works as a part of the science team, carrying out research for trait and action creation and blog content. She plays netball for her local team and after enjoying learning her wedding dance so much has started Latin and Ballroom dance classes with her husband.

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