Why pumpkin boosts your immune system, fights illness and even builds muscle

Pumpkins could be the latest immune protecting food to add to your diet this fall

Pumpkin chopped up on a slate surface
(Image credit: Getty)

Whether you are carving pumpkins or not for Halloween this year, the big and fleshy winter squash is something we should all be cooking with more.

As summer departs, seasonal colds are making the rounds (to say nothing of the residual threat of COVID), and this is a prime reason for you to be supporting your immune system as much as possible. You might already be doing so by taking things like the best vitamins for women over 50 and other multivitamins. 

Fortunately for us, autumn is the season that brings back pumpkins to our supermarket shelves, and this bright orange veggie is packed with healthy goodness. One 2019 study listed the many benefits of eating various parts of a pumpkin, including the peel, flesh and seeds. The researchers concluded that all three elements of a pumpkin are rich sources of protein, vitamin C, minerals, fatty acids and essential amino acids.

Pumpkin

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Considering most of the cells in the immune system are made up of proteins, we should aim to consume generous volumes of protein in our diets in order to support the function of our immune system. Protein is also an essential building block for muscle growth, and an increase in the amount of dietary protein you take in is absolutely key to supporting an active lifestyle. Not enough protein and your muscles won't be able to recover and grow after exercise, which means your progress will be much slower.

Animal products are a high-quality source of protein from whole foods, but the flesh and seeds of the pumpkin also contain protein in smaller amounts, as do pulses like beans and peas, nuts, soy, cruciferous leafy greens, lentils and whole grains.  If you are looking to increase your protein intake you can always do so with a supplement, such as the ones on our best protein powder for weight loss list. 

Pumpkin Risotto

(Image credit: Kallo)

Harvard University found that higher intakes of vitamin C was only associated with a very mild reduction of catching a cold or flu, despite vit C commonly being thought of an an immune booster. However, catching a cold is only half the battle, and a second study found vitamin C supplements can actually reduce the duration of a cold.

The researchers brought together various different studies and discovered that consuming vitamin C during a cold can reduce how long the illness lasts for by 8% for adults and 14% for children. The recommended daily dose was around 200 milligrams of vitamin C for it to take effect.

Serving up a hot portion of spiced pumpkin soup will not only bring comfort while you are all bunged up, but potentially knock a day or two off the duration of your cold. Pumpkin is perfect roasted in chunks and either served as skewers or in risotto (check out our exclusive pumpkin risotto recipe from the guys at BOSH!) or whipped up as a soup. Our best vegan cookbooks guide is a great place to start for some more ideas. 

Jessica Downey
Jessica Downey

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. She is a keen runner and is currently sweating her way through a 10k training plan. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen - which she loves sharing with others on her healthy living-inspired Instagram account, @jessrunshere. Despite her love for nutritious cooking, she stands by the saying ‘everything in moderation’ and is eagerly conquering the London food and drink scene!