From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

October 14, 2022

During autumn, pumpkins are top of mind—carving jack-o-lanterns, visiting pumpkin patches, decorating our homes, and indulging in a slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream or a frothy pumpkin latte. To reap the abundant health benefits of pumpkin we need to avoid the sugar, syrups, and processing that come with baked goods and pumpkin flavoring and instead enjoy recipes and snacks made from fresh or canned pumpkin.

The nutrients contained in the flesh, juice, and seeds of the pumpkin make it a superfood. After reading the long list of this fruit’s health benefits, you won’t need much convincing to make it a regular staple in your diet. Pumpkin offers our bodies:

  • Carotenoids – Carotenoids are antioxidants and pigments that give orange fruits and vegetables their color. The beta carotene, a common carotenoid, in pumpkin is converted to vitamin A in our bodies. In addition to lowering your risk of certain types of cancer, beta carotene benefits our eyes, protects us from germs, and protects our skin from aging by easing inflammation and warding off some harmful UV rays.
  • Potassium – This mineral lowers blood pressure, helps prevent heart disease, supports strong muscles, and reduces the risk of stroke, kidney stones, and type 2 diabetes.
  • A high-fiber, low-calorie option – Because pumpkin is 90 percent water, it contains only 50 calories per cup. In addition to curbing hunger, its fiber content promotes good digestion, which can reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
  • Magnesium – This nutrient helps your muscles recover after exercise and relaxes your nervous system.

Don’t forget the seeds! The pumpkin seeds you are most likely more familiar with are the white ones inside a jack-o-lantern. You might have also enjoyed the smaller, green seeds called pepitas that come from special varieties of pumpkins. Both varieties are healthy. Enjoy seeds unsalted and receive these benefits:

  • More protection from heart disease- Pumpkin seeds raise the “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and keep blood pressure down. They also promote heart health as a source of healthy fats.
  • A mood boost and excellent sleep- The seeds also contain tryptophan, which offers the sleep hormone melatonin. Tryptophan also helps to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood.
  • More magnesium, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber with fewer carbs than most of our go-to snacks.

Although fresh pumpkin is in-season during the fall, you can add this powerful fruit to your diet year-round through the canned variety. When shopping for canned pumpkin, avoid the pumpkin pie mix that contains added sugars and syrups. Here are some suggestions for incorporating this sweet or savory food into your meals:

  • Mix it in with your smoothie ingredients or with sugar-free vanilla yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Serve roasted pumpkin as a side dish.
  • Warm up a pumpkin soup or stew.
  • Enjoy pumpkin hummus as a healthy snack with baked pita chips or celery, carrots, and bell peppers.
  • Substitute mashed pumpkin for mashed potatoes at dinner.
  • When your bread and muffin recipes call for fat or oil, use pumpkin instead.

Remember to use pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack or topping:

  • Top off your salad, cereal, or yogurt.
  • Toast, roast, or spice your seeds and enjoy them as you would other nuts.
  • Mix them into your granola, trail mix, or oatmeal.

OHC’s cancer experts recommend a heart-healthy diet as a cancer prevention strategy. For additional patient resources or to request a second opinion with an OHC cancer doctor, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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