More than Just a Scary Face: The Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Carved into faces and lit from within, pumpkins have protected homes from the mythical “Stingy Jack” for centuries. But this humble squash, packed full of nutrients to benefit your heart, bones, eyes, and skin, is good for so much more than scaring off evil spirits. So before the neighborhood teenagers swipe it from your front porch and smash it in the street, scoop out the good stuff and reap the tasty health benefits of the big orange superfood.
Just a Few of the Benefits Pumpkins Offer
- A single cup of pumpkin provides 200% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, as well as carotenoids, both known to help protect eyes and boost vision.
- Pumpkin is high in fiber and low in calories, helping to keep you feeling full, without concern of weight gain.
- Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant believed to help fend off certain types of cancer.
- A cup of pumpkin has more potassium than a banana, great for helping restore energy after a hard workout.
- And don’t forget the seeds! Like other nuts and seeds, those found in pumkins contain phytosterols, known to help reduce “bad” cholesterol. They also contain tryptophan, which is needed to produce seratonin, helpful in promoting a good mood.
Making the Most of It
Pumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced lattes are everywhere from October through the end of the year. But there are countless other tasty ways to enjoy the healthy benefits. Clever culinarians have created everything from pumpkin butter, to pumpkin skin chips, to pumpkin pickles. Here are a few easy recipes to try:
- Pumpkin lasagna. It’s vegetarian and easier to prepare than you might expect. This recipe calls for canned pumpkin, but you can certainly substitute fresh.
- Pumpkin risotto. Use canned or fresh pumpkin for a new twist on a fall favorite.
- Pumpkin pancakes. Muffins aren’t the only way to enjoy pumpkin for breakfast.
- Pumpkin corn chowder. It’s hard to beat soup, or chowder, on a cold autumn day. This recipe swaps out sweet potatoes for pumpkin (or try it with both!).
Rich in dietary fiber, which slows the rate at which your body absorbs sugar, and with no saturated fats, the low calorie pumpkin is an excellent vegetable to aid in weight loss. And with all its nutritional impact, this roly poly gourd offers more than a haunting glow on your porch at Halloween. This year, while you’re waiting for trick-or-treaters to clean out the candy bowl, whip up a few gallons of pumpkin soup or freeze some pumpkin puree to use in upcoming holiday desserts, and hunker down for the cold, dark months ahead.