Benefits of Pumpkin for Athletes

It’s OCTOBER, it’s HALLOWEEN, it’s time for PUMPKINS!!!

Did you know pumpkins are not just for carving into scary faces, but they can be a huge contribution to our health?! They are full of nutrients and very easy to prepare.

Check out 7 of these great benefits pumpkin has for athletes!

1. It helps protect vision in older athletes. a diet high in bioflavonoids, including the ones found in pumpkin (specifically, zeaxanthin and leutin) help protect against age-related macular degeneration. Eating pumpkin will help keep vision sharp, a benefit to any athlete (or any person!) 

2. 1 cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 mg of potassium, more than your average banana. This makes it suitable to help with muscle cramping post-event.

3. Pumpkin seeds are rich in manganese, which helps to maintain joint health and acts as an antioxidant. This means that they’re great for any athlete, especially ones that are in high-impact sports (e.g. runners, gymnasts).

4. Pumpkin seeds are very rich in zinc. Zinc is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies and essential for helping to health of the immune system and fighting off infections. The less colds and flues an athlete can get, the more time they can spend on the field or ice. While the zinc in pumpkin seeds is harder to absorb because they contain phytic acid, this can be easily remedied by soaking seeds overnight in warm water.

5. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, which helps calm down sore muscles and help synthesize ATP, the stored energy molecule our body uses in exercise. A diet high in magnesium may also help with anxiety in athletes, which can help with pre-game jitters. 

6. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in tryptophan, which can help you get a good night’s sleep before an event. Because tryptophan is a precursor to the happy neurotransmitter serotonin, they can help improve mood as well.

7. Pumpkin seeds have a lot more protein than you would think! A serving of pumpkin seeds has 1.5 times the protein than other nuts and seeds (like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and sesame seeds). This means they’re a great snack for longer events or as a post-workout pick-me-up!

To prepare home cooked pumpkin and squash:

  • Remove the top stem, slice into pieces that are small enough to fit into a large baking dish.
  • Remove the inner strings and seeds. Discard inner strings. Soak seeds or roast in an oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • For the rest of the pumpkin, place into a baking dish, flesh side down. Add ½ an inch of water and cover with a lid or tin foil. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until flesh is soft enough to poke with a fork.
  • Remove the outer skin and discard once finished. Just toss the flesh into a blender and puree! Works great for smoothies, pies, soups, and baked goods, with all of these GREAT nutrients that are perfect for kids!

Pumpkin is absolutely fantastic for athletes and should be included in their diet today! For more great nutrition tips, check out our Whole Foods Lifestyle Program.


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