How Pumpkin Can Help Power Athletes
It is hard to believe autumn is here: extra layers at tennis matches, cooler temperatures for running and earlier kickoffs. This season also brings a galore of pumpkin recipes.
Pumpkins are a type of winter squash and with over 100 varieties to choose from the options never get boring especially if you are looking to spice up your athlete’s plate. In addition to providing fun fall décor, pumpkins are a powerhouse of nutrients that can help fuel your athletic performance. Pumpkin is packed with fiber, numerous vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants such as beta-carotene.
What’s in the Puree?
Some nutrients that are especially important for athletic performance include the electrolytes potassium and magnesium, both of which can be found in pumpkin puree.
One cup of canned pumpkin puree contains about 500 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is an important nutrient for athletes that works to regulate fluids in the body as well as enable proper muscle contraction. Consuming adequate amounts of potassium helps athletes support intense training sessions, avoid post-exercise exhaustion and prevent muscle cramps.
Magnesium, another essential electrolyte, assists athletic performance by maintaining muscle and nerve function, regulating heart rhythm, and promoting energy metabolism. One cup of pumpkin puree provides about 56 milligrams of magnesium. Ensuring you have enough magnesium as an athlete can decrease the occurrence of muscle cramps and spasms, reduce fatigue, and speed up recovery.
Pop in the Pumpkin Seeds
The seeds of a pumpkin are also edible and offer many nutrients that can benefit athletes. On top of containing potassium and magnesium, pumpkin seeds provide the minerals iron and zinc.
One ounce of pumpkin seeds provides about 2.5 milligrams of iron. Iron is needed to transport oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles in the body. Low iron intake can lead to decreased exercise performance, fatigue, headaches and shortness of breath.
Additionally, there are about 2 milligrams of zinc in one ounce of pumpkin seeds. Zinc is essential for proper immune function. Keeping the immune system strong is especially important for athletes who do not want to be sidelined with numerous colds or infections during the sports season. Zinc is also important for proper wound healing after an injury.
Prioritize Your Pumpkins
Both the puree and the seeds of a pumpkin offer many essential nutrients to support athletic performance including potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Adding some pumpkin inspired recipes into your fall meal rotation can help meet your athlete’s nutrient needs and fuel your body.
Try adding pumpkin puree to your smoothies, oatmeal, or energy bites. Sprinkle a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds in your yogurt or add to a mid-morning trail mix. Or jazz up your evening meal with a bowl of pumpkin soup or hidden pumpkin in your enchiladas.
The opportunities are endless, but you can contact us for more.
This story was written by Avera Human Performance Center dietetic intern Hailey Millner.