Pumpkins are more than just beautiful and versatile. They may just help you strengthen your immune system just in time for cold season. Maybe that’s why they’re such a popular food in fall and winter!
Pumpkin flavors are everywhere in the fall, and I think there is more than one reason that this seasonal gourd is so popular. Pumpkin (and other winter squash) are packed with anti-inflammatory nutrients that help support immune health. Below are five macro- and micro-nutrients in pumpkin that help keep you healthy all year long.
The nutritional information below is for a cup of pumpkin puree, but other winter squash like butternut, acorn, and kabocha squash also contain healthy doses of vitamin A, soluble fiber, folate, manganese, and riboflavin. So if you’re feeling a little bit burnt out on pumpkin, don’t worry! You can get similar anti-inflammatory benefits from whatever winter squash strikes your fancy.
1. Eat your vitamin A
A cup of pumpkin puree contains almost eight times you daily requirement for vitamin A. You probably associate vitamin A with good eyesight, but a 2010 study found that vitamin A — along with vitamin D — plays a big part in supporting your body’s immune system. So take that slice of pumpkin pie outside to soak up some vitamin D along with all of that vitamin A to avoid cold and flu.
2. Get your soluble fiber here!
That same cup of pumpkin has over 25 percent of your daily fiber needs. What does fiber have to do with immune health? Quite a bit, it turns out! There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Pumpkin is rich in insoluble fiber, which another 2010 study found stimulates your body’s immune system and helps fight infection.
3. Say hello to folate.
Folate — aka folic acid — is a B vitamin that may be critical to a healthy immune system, and a cup of pumpkin puree has almost a third of your daily folate requirement. Preliminary research shows that a folate deficiency may be linked to a weaker immune system, so pass the pumpkin spice latte, please!
4. A little manganese goes a long way.
Pumpkin has 18 percent of your RDA for manganese. Manganese helps your body build cells called superoxide dimutase, which fight free radicals and help your body maintain normal cell growth. It’s important not to get too much manganese, though, because it can cause neurological problems.
5. Cook up some riboflavin.
A serving of pumpkin puree has eight percent of your daily riboflavin requirement. Riboflavin — aka vitamin B2 — help your body fight off bacterial infections. Combine that pumpkin with other riboflavin-rich foods like spinach and almonds to give your diet a little riboflavin boost.
By: Becky Striepe