The Delicious Benefits of Pumpkin
Ah, welcome fall! While I love all the seasons, there is something really special about the transition from summer to fall that I find so refreshing. Chinese medicine sees this as a particularly important time of the year as well. It is a time when we move inward and need to focus on nourishing our minds and bodies.
You know that I am a big foodie and nutrition-nerd so I am sure you won’t be surprised to learn that eating seasonally is a big deal for me. One of my very favorite seasonal treats for fall is pumpkin, and I will definitely try and get my fill over the next couple of months. But I’m not talking sugar-laden pumpkin pies and PSL’s here. If you think that pumpkin is only good for unhealthy sweet treats, think again….
Pumpkin is one of our most nutritious vegetables and is incredibly versatile. Read on to learn how pumpkin can really pack a punch for you this autumn.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkins and their super-power seeds are packed with vitamins and nutrients which makes it the perfect seasonal vegetable for fall and winter. How many ways could pumpkin benefit your health?
1. Fill up on Fiber
Both the flesh of the pumpkin as well as the pumpkin seeds themselves have tons of fiber – 3g for the pumpkin and 1.7g for the seeds. Fiber is a necessary part of our diet to help us feel fuller longer and to keep our digestive tract healthy. This makes it a great choice for anyone who is working to lose weight or beat sugar cravings. By using pumpkin and other fiber-rich vegetables to get your daily fiber intake, you avoid filling up on potentially inflammatory grains.
2. Happy Heart
Along with protecting the digestive tract and keeping us full, fiber is also important for heart health. A fiber-rich diet can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease substantially: a 40% lower risk in men and a 25% lower risk for women. Plus, the pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, an essential mineral needed for heart function.
3. Manage Your Blood Sugar
All parts of the pumpkin shine here – the flesh, seeds, juice. Pumpkin can help to keep blood sugar levels in check and is extremely beneficial for people managing Type II Diabetes.
4. Improve Your Vision
Just like carrots, another amazing vegetable for fall, pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A – one of the most important vitamins for eye and vision health. In fact, a cup of the gourd will give you twice the recommended daily amount. This not only helps to improve your vision but can even prevent issues such as retinitis pigmentosa and other degenerative eye diseases. Vitamin A is also particularly healthful for your skin, teeth, and bones, so enjoy all the pumpkin you can!
5. Manage Your Blood Pressure
This is where pumpkin seeds in particular shine. The oil of the seeds contains phytoestrogens which work to keep blood pressure down.
6. Get Some Zzz’s and Boost Your Mood
Tryptophan is that famous amino acid that we like to talk about around Thanksgiving – the rest-inducing component of turkey and other foods that make you feel so contentedly sleepy after a big meal. Well, pumpkin seeds are also full of tryptophan and are therefore serotonin-producing powerhouse. They help you to relax, unwind, and just feel good overall.
7. Reproductive Health
Here, pumpkin seeds shine again. They are full of antioxidants, beta-carotene, and zinc – all of which have very important roles in keeping both men and women’s reproductive systems functioning properly. For men, these components help to keep the prostate healthy and testosterone in check. Zinc is a major player when it comes to sperm health and pumpkin seeds are an easy way to get your fix. For women, this helps to manage ovarian health and benefit fertility.
8. Reduce your Cancer Risk
This is no surprise, considering how pumpkin seeds are teeming with antioxidants. Studies have found that this is particularly helpful in the prevention of breast and prostate cancers.
How to get your pumpkin fix….
Curious about how to actually enjoy all these benefits of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds? There are so many recipes out there, there’s no reason not to load up on this hearty, healthy gourd.
An easy way to introduce more pumpkin to your meals is to make roasted vegetable medleys or use chunks of pumpkin in chilis, stews, or other soups you might be making as the weather cools down.
As for the seeds, sprinkle them on oats, salads, or curries. Make a snack mix with other seeds and nuts to take to work or on the go.
Or, try out these delicious recipes where pumpkin is the star!
I want to hear from you:
Do you have any favorite pumpkin recipes? Please let us know! Leave a comment below.