The Surprising Immune Health Benefits of Pumpkin
By Amy Sunderman, MS, RD
There are a lot of interesting facts about pumpkins that many of us aren’t aware of. Like the fact that they’re actually fruits and not vegetables or that they’re made up of about 90% water. One of the even lesser-known facts is that pumpkins are packed with nutrients that can be beneficial to our immune health.
While they might not get the same spotlight as other immune-boosting fruits like oranges or elderberries, pumpkins still provide some pretty impressive vitamins to support immune function and overall wellness.
Pumpkins are also a great source of vitamin A. Pumpkins contain beta-carotene which is what gives them their iconic orange color. This plant carotenoid is then converted into vitamin A within the body, which helps to maintain lung
health and regulate immune cell response. Since only a small percent of over 600 carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A, this compound is a real treat from this traditional pie staple.1,2
As the second top nutrient, pumpkin is also high in vitamin C. Providing almost 20% of the recommended daily amount per serving, pumpkin is a fun and simple way to incorporate this essential vitamin into your diet. This immune health booster helps neutralize damaging free radicals as well as provide extra support for the immune system by promoting immune cell production and providing antioxidants.3
Pumpkin seeds are also loaded with immune-boosting essentials, one of which is vitamin E. Like vitamin C, this immune supporter also helps neutralize free radicals. Vitamin E may help repair cells from oxidative damage and enhance the immune response.4 Luckily, the average pumpkin provides around 500 seeds, so there are plenty to go around!
Pumpkin seeds are a great source for a multitude of minerals that promote healthy immune function like ironand zinc, two important nutrients that support the development of healthy immune cells. 5,6 Maintaining healthy levels of these minerals is crucial for immune cell health and in regulating immune function.
Another important mineral found in pumpkin seeds is magnesium. Magnesium plays a key role in immunoglobulin synthesis and immune cell function.7
If you’re looking for some festive and fun ways to get more pumpkin in your diet, we have loads of pumpkin recipes ranging from no-bake desserts to healthy vegan pumpkin bread. If you don’t want to take on an entire pumpkin, or just don’t want to scrape for seeds, you can also find puree, seeds and seed oils to fit your pumpkin preferences.
About Amy Sunderman, MS, RD
Director of Science & Innovation, Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health
Amy is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author with over 20 years of experience in the supplement industry. Amy is passionate about dietary supplements and the health benefits they offer. She enjoys working to find novel nutritional ingredients with strong clinical research behind them to drive innovation and provide health-promoting products to consumers.
1. Biesalski, H, et al. Importance of vitamin-A for lung function and development. Mol Aspects Med 2003 Dec; 24(6):431-440.
2. Villamor, E, et al. Effects of Vitamin A Supplementation on Immune Responses and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 2005 Jul; 18(3):446-464.
3. Carr, A and Maggini, S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 2017 Nov; 9(11):1211.
4. Lee, G. Y., & Han, S. N. (2018). The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity. Nutrients, 10(11), 1614. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111614
5. Cherayil B. J. (2010). Iron and immunity: immunological consequences of iron deficiency and overload. Archivum immunologiae et therapiae experimentalis, 58(6), 407–415. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00005-010-0095-9
6. Prasad A. S. (2008). Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Molecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.), 14(5-6), 353–357. https://doi.org/10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad
7. Tam, M. (2003). Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system https://www.nature.com/articles/1601689.pdf
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.