6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin
If you’re like most, you probably think of pumpkin just twice a year: once as a glorified candleholder during Halloween and then again as the indulgent finishing touch to a Thanksgiving dinner feast.
But this big orange orb is actually one of nature’s nutritional powerhouses -- it’s packed with more than 100 therapeutic nutrients, including skin-protecting beta-carotenes and disease-fighting antioxidants, that can boost your beauty routine and enhance your health. Here are the top reasons the pumpkin’s goodness is a treat you should indulge in all year.
1. Pumpkin erases years.
Pumpkin packs a powerful one-two punch when it comes to skin care, says dermatologist Audrey Kunin. It contains alpha hydroxy acids, a natural fruit acid that helps lift away old skin cells to reveal a radiant, more luminous complexion, plus vitamin A, which helps increase the rate of cell renewal to unveil younger-looking, softer skin. Rich in essential fatty acids, pumpkin is also an effective way to diminish fine lines and wrinkles, says skin care expert Kimara Ahnert. It’s loaded with vitamin C (which has been proven to spur collagen production and prevent the breakdown of elastin) and sodium hyaluronate to help hydrate and plump skin.
2. Pumpkin defends against disease.
One of the most nutrient-rich foods out there, pumpkin is packed with disease-fighters, especially a turbo-charged combination of carotenoids, says Dr. William Clower, author of The Fat Fallacy. According to Clower, the National Cancer Institute estimates that up to 30 percent of all cancers can be prevented by eating the right foods, such as those rich in carotene, like pumpkin (just a 1/2 cup serving satisfies twice the recommended intake of alpha-carotene and 100 percent that of beta-carotene).
3. Pumpkin ups your UV protection.
Like pumpkin, carrots are loaded with beta-carotenes, an antioxidant with serious oomph. Not only is beta-carotene responsible for pumpkin’s deep-orange color, it also provides potent protection against free-radical damage caused by the sun’s harmful rays. Applied topically, pumpkin extract can even enhance the effect of sunscreen and shield skin from other environmental factors, including air pollution, stress and secondhand smoke.
4. Pumpkin boosts sexual desire.
The spicy scent of pumpkin is a surefire way to inject some sizzle into those stay-at-home evenings with your partner. According to studies at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, the smell of pumpkin is a top-rated aphrodisiac. It’s also been proven to increase sexual functionality in both men and women -- one more reason to serve pumpkin ice cream or light a pumpkin candle on a random Tuesday night.
5. Pumpkin helps you think faster and better.
Want a no-fuss, no-muss alternative to the heavy pumpkin? Try pumpkin seeds -- they’re notable for being a great source of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which not only help promote healthy bone density but can also sharpen your brain skills.
6. Pumpkin keeps your teeth healthy.
Looking to improve your dental care? Try a little pumpkin seed oil when cooking; it can help you prevent cavities and tooth decay.