Top 10 Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkins are not just for Halloween decorations or a so-called “pumpkin-spiced latte” from your over-priced coffee shop (which contains no actual pumpkin). There are surprisingly many health benefits from this ghoulish gourd. 

The pulp is rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and tryptophan. Pumpkin seeds have even more benefits due to their power packed nutrient content and have extensive research supporting several conditions. They are comprised of healthy fats, up to 50% of the seed and around 30% is protein. Pumpkin seeds are a nutritional source of zinc, magnesium, iron, and potassium. In addition, the seeds contain beta-sitosterol, antioxidant tocopherols (vitamin E), and cardioprotective fatty acids.

Prostate Health

Zinc, beta-sitosterols, and healthy oils in pumpkin seeds have a profound impact on the prostate.  The prostate is one of the most demanding tissues for zinc and is necessary for optimal testosterone production.  Beta-sitosterols are phytoestrogens, which helps to block estrogen from stimulating the prostate and block the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Both estrogen and DHT have been shown to worsen BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and prostate cancer.  

For all of my male patients, I recommend a daily dose of 1-2 tablespoons of raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds.  This is a great snack or can be added to smoothies, salad dressings, or sauces to give a smooth, creamy consistency when blended!

Eyes 

Beta Carotene is an essential precursor to making vitamin A which is needed for vision, especially at night time.  In addition, carotenoids act as a natural sunscreen to help protect against UV radiation from sun exposure, preventing cataracts - a side effect of oxidative stress.  Your eyes are sensitive to sunlight just like your skin!

Skin 

Rich in Vitamin C, E, zinc and beta-carotene the pulp can help promote collagen health, keeping your skin youthful. In addition, the beta-carotene is a great natural sunscreen, from the inside out.  Here’s a recipe for a pumpkin mask:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (plain, no sugar added)
  • 2 teaspoons greek yogurt (if vegan, use coconut yogurt + 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons honey 
  • 2 tablespoons sprouted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree till smooth.  Apply to face for 10 minutes, rinse off and moisturize. Note: you may want to eat the mask…totally safe!

Lower Blood Sugar

Recent statistics have shown 50% of US citizens are insulin resistant and a third are obese! Studies have shown that the pumpkin seeds are rich in minerals, antioxidants and healthy oils. that have a hypoglycemic effect, combat oxidative stress and improve insulin regulation.  In addition, controlling blood sugar with healthy dietary fiber slows down how fast sugar enters the blood stream.

Heals Fatty Liver Disease

NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is on the rise in the US due to poor quality processed foods and grains. This is not due to genetics, but environmental toxins, poor diet, and lifestyle.  PUFAs (poly unsaturated fatty acids) have been shown to help a diseased fatty liver recover quicker.  In addition, the liver uses zinc, magnesium, and iron as cofactors for a variety of chemical reactions helping you detoxify and protect your whole body.

Cardioprotective & Reduces Atherosclerosis

Healthy fats, fiber and magnesium have been shown to improve cardiac function, reduce cholesterol levels and heal coronary artery disease (CAD). Pumpkin seeds can be used as a healthy snack when practicing a weight loss program.  

TIP: If you get hungry between meals, reach for a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds to curb your appetite.

Hair Health

Androgenic Alopecia, or male-pattern baldness is due to DHT, dihydrotestosterone, which chokes the blood vessels to the hair follicles.  Pumpkin seed’s rich source of beta-sitosterol have been shown to block 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that produces DHT.  Every little bit helps, so consuming 2 tablespoons of raw sprouted pumpkin seeds can keep your hair thicker, longer.

Digestive and Immune Health

Beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E are all necessary for supporting a healthy gut lining. Studies have shown a protective effect on patients suffering from gastric ulcers.  In addition, those same nutrients are used for the immune system to function and regulate properly.  In fact, over 70% of your immune system is in your gut so it makes sense to protect yourself. Plus the fiber from the pulp is wonderful for aiding in motility of the GI tract.

Women’s Health

Post-menopausal women and fertility patients and can benefit from both the pulp and seeds.  Phytoestrogens help the body with a boost when you’re low and buffer estrogen when it’s too high.  The fiber is wonderful for clearing old hormones preventing harmful estrogen metabolites from recirculating in the body.  Vitamin E, called tocopherol, literally means to carry offspring!  This is necessary for a healthy pregnancy and is a fat-soluble antioxidant.

Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is present in nearly every type of disease in the body. Simply turning it off is not the answer.  Understanding the root cause of inflammation and treating that is the best, naturopathic approach.  Omega 6 fatty acid consumption in the US is over 6 times that of our ancestral diet and are inflammatory when consumed.  Omega 3 have an anti-inflammatory effect which balances and modulates the response.  These fatty acids produce prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes and having the correct ratio can mean a big difference in people who suffer from any number of inflammatory symptoms from asthma to osteoarthritis!

Conclusion

Pumpkin is not just a once a year dessert option for Thanksgiving, but rather a nutritious source of healing nutrients.  Consider adding this to your next dinner party in a fun way.  There are so many great recipes on the internet so get creative and start moving this ghoulish gourd from your porch into your pantry!

To Your Health,

Dr. Steven Sorr
Naturopathic Medical Doctor
Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Graduate

 

References:

The role of Cucurbita pepo in the management of patients affected by lower urinary tract symptoms due to benign prostatic hyperplasia: A narrative review. Damiano R, Cai T, Fornara P, Franzese CA, Leonardi R, Mirone V. Arch Ital Urol Androl. 2016 Jul 4;88(2):136-43. doi: 10.4081/aiua.2016.2.136.

Replacement of Dietary Saturated Fat by PUFA-Rich Pumpkin Seed Oil Attenuates Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Atherosclerosis Development, with Additional Health Effects of Virgin over Refined Oil. Morrison MC, Mulder P, Stavro PM, Suárez M, Arola-Arnal A, van Duyvenvoorde W, Kooistra T, Wielinga PY, Kleemann R. PLoS One. 2015 Sep 25;10(9):e0139196. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139196. eCollection 2015.

Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Cho YH, Lee SY, Jeong DW, Choi EJ, Kim YJ, Lee JG, Yi YH, Cha HS. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:549721. doi: 10.1155/2014/549721. Epub 2014 Apr 23.

The hypoglycemic effect of pumpkin seeds, Trigonelline (TRG), Nicotinic acid (NA), and D-Chiro-inositol (DCI) in controlling glycemic levels in diabetes mellitus. Adams GG, Imran S, Wang S, Mohammad A, Kok MS, Gray DA, Channell GA, Harding SE.

Tocopherol from seeds of Cucurbita pepo against diabetes: validation by in vivo experiments supported by computational docking. Bharti SK, Kumar A, Sharma NK, Prakash O, Jaiswal SK, Krishnan S, Gupta AK, Kumar A. J Formos Med Assoc. 2013 Nov;112(11):676-90.

Effect of ripe fruit pulp extract of Cucurbita pepo Linn. in aspirin induced gastric and duodenal ulcer in rats. Sarkar S, Buha D.Indian J Exp Biol. 2008 Sep;46(9):639-45.