5 Reasons To Incorporate Pumpkin Into Your Self-Care Routine

Being basic pays off. Your rewards? Glowing skin, healthy hair, and a supercharged immune system. We're not kidding: The fall food everyone loves to hate is actually really good for you. So instead of embarrassing yourself trying to avoid pumpkin, embrace it; just like Uggs, pumpkin and pumpkin spice are ubiquitous aspects of autumn. Over the last year, The Washington Post reports pumpkin spice products "accounted for more than $231 million in sales" — a 27% increase from the year before.

Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, who tracks food trends for Mintel, a market-research firm, told The Washington Post many have turned to pumpkin and pumpkin spice as the ultimate comfort spice. There's also a ton of nutritional value in pumpkin and pumpkin seeds making them a hard food to hate. According to Healthline, even in small amounts, pumpkin can provide "a substantial quantity of healthy fats, magnesium, and zinc" plus "potassium, vitamin B2, and folate."

Pumpkin seed oil specifically even has medicinal qualities that studies are finding help not only reduce inflammation without adverse effects, but "diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers," per Healthline. Other studies show pumpkin seeds can help slow the growth of prostate cancer cells, and "may play a key role" in helping to prevent and treat breast cancer.

Time to — as autumnal aesthetic queen Taylor Swift would suggest – shake it off and embrace being basic. Your body will thank you.

Using pumpkin can help your skin glow

As the weather changes, so do our skincare concerns and, if you embrace being basic as much as we do, we're primed to add pumpkin to our skincare routines. But it's more than the smell of pumpkin spice we're after; according to Narine Nikogosian, skincare expert and author of "Return to Beauty: Old-World recipes for Great Radiant Skin," pumpkin enzymes can have magical impacts on your skin.

Nikogosian told Cosmopolitan that "pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals." Joshua Zeichner, MD — a board-certified dermatologist — added that the vitamin C found in pumpkin can help protect your skin from "environmental aggressors" as well help "firm and plump the skin" in gentler ways than "their chemical exfoliant counterparts," per Martha Stewart.

Pumpkin enzymes are exactly what you need for your skin if you're fighting, or want to prevent, breakouts. Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, told Martha Stewart that there are alpha-hydroxy acids in pumpkin enzymes, which encourages "gentle exfoliation," and zinc, which can help manage oil production and keep breakouts under control.

But if you're suffering from breakouts, Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, told Harper's Bazaar the zinc found in pumpkin enzymes, combined with the vitamin E also in pumpkin, actually helps with "skin renewal" and fighting acne and signs of aging.

Adding pumpkin hair masks to your weekly routine may help stop shedding

There are more uses for our favorite fall food than making pumpkin pies and decorating our front stoops. If you already have a weekly hair care routine, you're going to want to add pumpkin masks to your regime asap. Pumpkin, Bustle reminds us, is full of vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, which can help scalp blood circulation, strengthen hair follicles, and promote hair growth.

To jump on this beauty trend, Riley Brown Beauty suggests mixing "one can of pumpkin, ¼ cup of coconut oil," and "2 tablespoons of honey" and letting the mixture sit on your hair after you've shampooed. After about five minutes, Brown says to rinse and condition like normal. Make sure when you're applying the mask, massage the pumpkin in "from mid-length to the ends" — a step that will help prevent breakage. According to Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, pumpkin can help reduce the production of the hormone that stops hair growth as well as "protect hair follicles and increase shine" (via Harper's Bazaar).

If you're not up for a pumpkin paste mask, Healthline suggests massaging warm pumpkin seed oil into wet, shampooed hair. You're going to want to wrap your hair in a hot towel and let the oil sit for 20 minutes before shampooing and conditioning. They warn, though, that research on phytosterols is limited to treating baldness in men and it can take "several weeks" before you see results.

Snacking on pumpkin seeds can help fight stress

If pumpkin seeds aren't already one of your favorite snacks, you're sleeping on an overrated source of magnesium. According to Healthline, pumpkin seeds and pepitas – the green kernel inside the white pumpkin seed shell — are "one of the best natural sources of magnesium," something that is probably missing for your diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports around 79% of adults don't get enough daily magnesium, the nutrient Healthline explains is necessary for "more than 600 chemical reactions in your body," like controling blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk, forming and maintaining healthy bones, and regulating blood sugar levels.

Magnesium also helps keep our stress responses in balance. Charlotte Martin, M.S., RDN, author of "The Plant Forward Solution," told Real Simple, "Magnesium helps promote relaxation and deep restorative sleep" by "maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the body and the mind." Taste of Home recommends eating a handful of pumpkin seeds before bed if you're battling insomnia. But don't forget to consult your doctor, too.

There's more than just magnesium in our favorite anxiety-fighting fall snack. Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., CDN and founder of Real Nutrition, told Real Simple pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of tryptophan. Besides also supporting sleep, tryptophan has been shown to help fight depression, though more research is needed.

Pro-tip: Pumpkin seeds are available year-round and, when they're unsalted and/or roasted, are an excellent addition to trail mixes.

Eating pumpkin can give your immunity a boost

Don't worry — there are more ways to get the health benefits of pumpkin than putting squash on your face or hair. Just like their seeds, pumpkins are full of vitamins and nutrients that can help you get through cold and flu season.

Besides helping with hair growth, beta carotene is an antioxidant that provides the body with multiple protections from things like sun damage, vision loss, and infection, per Healthline. But beta-carotene — which converts to vitamin K when it's digested — isn't the only immunity-boosting nutrient packed into pumpkin. According to The Cleveland Clinic, not only will you get a dose of vitamin E and iron when you grab a piece of pumpkin pie, but one "serving of pumpkin provides 19% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C."

What's more impressive is the amount of vitamin A – another nutrient that helps support your immune system — you can get from one helping of pumpkin. Also known for helping with cell growth, eye health, and fetal development, Business Insider reports there's "280% percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin A" in a half cup of pumpkin.

According to Harvard's The Nutrition Source, low levels of these key vitamins can negatively alter your body's ability to fight off infections. But they also warn that a balanced diet needs to be combined with good sleep and regular exercise in order to give your body the best defense against illness.

Pumpkin saves eyes

Pumpkin being so packed with vitamin A has more benefits than just helping to build stronger immunity. Vitamin A, and the beta-carotene it's converted from, are "essential for sustaining good eyesight," per Business Insider. They add that when it comes to eye health, vitamin A helps keep our corneas and retinas healthy and is part of a crucial compound called rhodopsin, which helps us adjust to seeing in different lights.

To drive home how important vitamin A is to eyesight, Healthline warns that vitamin A deficiencies are the most common causes of blindness.

Being the superfood that it is — it's No. 20 on the CDC's ranking of "powerhouse fruits and vegetables" — vitamin A isn't the only nutrient in pumpkins that helps support eye health. Vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are also all associated with heart health support, help to fight against "age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration" (via Business Insider). Plus, pumpkins have lutein and zeaxanthin — two compounds that, according to The Cleveland Clinic, help prevent cataracts.

A recent study actually showed that eating food rich with zinc and other antioxidants, like pumpkin, helped to slow age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 25% and visual acuity loss by 19% (via American Optometric Association). Matthew Houck, O.D., told the American Optometric Association that getting proper nutrition through foods like pumpkin is more beneficial than supplements, explaining that while "vitamins are great...they do not replace good nutrition."