Why you shouldn't waste your leftover pumpkin

Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

25 October 2018

Is pumpkin a super food?

October definitely gives pumpkins a rare opportunity to shine with Jack O Lanterns and pumpkin spice lattes being all the rage at this time of year. However, often our interest in this vegetable is superficial which means that we lose out in some of the truly amazing health benefits of this vegetable. That’s why, rather than simply dumping the remains in the bin after meticulously carving the perfect spooky expression on your pumpkin, you should instead consider putting them to good use!

Boost your immune system with pumpkin soup

The vibrancy of pumpkins is part of what makes them so attractive and memorable, plus it also contributes to their overall health benefits. Pumpkins  contain phytonutrients such as beta-carotene and lycopene, which are usually present in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.

These nutrients help to strengthen the immune system which is always a bonus at this time of year! Beta-carotene in particular is advantageous as your body can convert this into vitamin A which can actively help to fight off infections such as the cold or flu. Pumpkins also have the added benefit of being incredibly rich in vitamin C which can increase your production of white blood cells! 

Even pumpkin seeds can be useful here as they’re chockfull of zinc, another immune-boosting mineral. Since a nice cosy bowl of soup is a great weapon against the winter chill, pumpkin soup is an amazing and simple option to go for – if you need any inspiration just check out this delicious Pumpkin & Potato Soup recipe below!

Heal your skin with pumpkin seeds

Okay, so mostly I’ve spoken about the benefits of the pumpkin flesh but, as I’ve also mentioned, pumpkin seeds are incredibly rich in zinc which isn’t just useful for supporting your immune system. In her blog, ‘Is zinc the best mineral for acne?’ our Skin Advisor Felicity covers the benefits of zinc in more detail but here, I think it’s worth highlighting that acne sufferers often display lower levels of zinc compared to those without acne. 

As Felicity goes on to explain, although zinc’s relationship with the immune system is useful for fighting off the bacteria responsible for acne outbreaks, it also influences certain hormones such as CRH, which affects how your skin reacts to acne, often stimulating the tell-tale inflammation associated with the condition. 

So, if you’re looking to support your skin health, pumpkin seeds can be a real asset. It also helps that they contain plenty of vitamin E, which can support you circulation and acts as an antioxidant, keeping free-radicals away from your skin and preventing premature ageing! 

While you can snack on pumpkin seeds on their own, it’s always more fun to incorporate them into a snack. Our Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Bars have been a real hit so they’re definitely at the top of my recommendation list!

Improve your vision with pumpkin risotto 

Keeping your eyes healthy is extremely important but it often gets overlooked in favour of other areas. This is a real shame as eating the right foods to support your eyes can go a long way towards preventing the development of conditions such as AMD  (Age-related Macular Degeneration). 

Two nutrients that are of particular importance are zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, both of which are found in abundance in pumpkins. Not only can these nutrients protect your eyes from free-radical damage, beta-carotene (after it’s been converted into vitamin A) is also essential for helping your retinas to absorb and process light. Amazingly, pumpkins contain over 200% of your daily intake of vitamin A  as well as a healthy intake of lutein which, in combination with zeaxanthin, may help to inhibit the development of macular degeneration.  

You can find zeaxanthin and lutein in our Vision Complex, but you could also get more into your diet by adding pumpkin to dinner recipes such as risotto.  

Support your heart with potassium with roast pumpkin

As we’ve established, pumpkin flesh and seeds are an excellent source of zinc, vitamin C, beta carotene and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin which can help to support your skin, eyes and immune system but what we haven’t talked about yet is potassium

Potassium is very important if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, which can contribute towards your cardiovascular health. Pumpkins contain plenty of potassium but they’re also surprisingly rich in fibre. Not only does this help you to get unhealthy food cravings under control, it can also slow down your absorption of sugar, preventing any rapid fluctuations with your blood sugar levels. 

One of my favourite ways to eat pumpkin is after it’s been roasted – our advisor Katie gives more detailed instructions on how you can do this here but if you want to implement this into a meal, please check out Jessica’s Roast Pumpkin and Crispy Sage recipe for a delicious dinner or light lunch.

So, while pumpkins might not have officially joined the ‘super food’ club yet, they are absolutely teeming with health benefits – so far I’ve only spoken about a few but believe me, there are much, much more! That’s why it really could pay to save your leftover pumpkin instead of throwing it away but, with leftover pumpkin comes the promise of carving which can be tricky. That’s why I highly recommend you check out Katie’s guide to cutting pumpkin!

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