'Tis the season for pumpkin everything: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice cookies and pumpkin spice ice cream, to name a few pumpkin treats that are popular this time of year.
While there are plenty of pumpkin sweets that aren’t so healthy—one tall pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks has 195 calories and is packed with 36 grams of sugar—there are many health benefits of eating natural pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food full of vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant found in orange fruits and vegetables. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, delay aging and degeneration of the body and protect against asthma and heart disease.
Here are some the ways eating pumpkin can improve your health:
Boost immunity: Pumpkin contains a powerful combination of nutrients, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, that help boost immune system function.
Lower blood pressure: Pumpkin contains fiber, potassium and vitamin C to support heart health. Potassium is almost as effective at lowering high blood pressure as decreasing sodium intake. Increased potassium consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of stroke and the formation of kidney stones, and to the preservation of muscle mass and bone mineral density.
Reduced risk of prostate cancer: A diet rich in beta-carotene has been linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer, according to research by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. Beta-carotene may also help prevent colon cancer.
Improved eye health: Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, which are found in pumpkin, are important for maintaining eye health and preventing degenerative eye damage. They also may decrease risk and progression of age-related macular degeneration.
Promote fertility: According to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications, high iron consumption from plant sources including pumpkin may promote fertility in women of childbearing age. Vitamin A is also essential for hormone synthesis during pregnancy and lactation.
It’s not just the pumpkin flesh that's good for your health. Pumpkin seeds are also packed with health benefits including: magnesium to boost heart health; zinc for immune support and prostate health; omega-3 fats; tryptophan amino acid for improved sleep; and anti-inflammatory effects from pumpkin seed oil.
Want to get more pumpkin in your diet? First, be sure you’re eating actual pumpkin, and not pumpkin product. Preparing fresh pumpkin is best, but canned, pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) can also be beneficial.
Here are a few ways you can get the health benefits of pumpkin:
- Use pumpkin purée or canned pumpkin in place of oil or butter in a baking recipe.
- Combine Greek yogurt, pumpkin purée or canned pumpkin, honey, cinnamon and cocoa powder to make pumpkin chocolate yogurt.
- Try this recipe for a healthier pumpkin pie.
- Toss 1 cup of pumpkin seeds with a teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven on 350° for about 20 minutes.
Posted: 10/26/2015 by
Filed under: eating, healthy, ingredients, key, pumpkin