Carving Up a Delicious Source of Nutrients

Though this year’s drought has not been kind to most crops, it has resulted in a bumper crop of pumpkins.  Yes, yes, Halloween is over and kids destroyed your jack-o-lantern, but pumpkins are good for other things, including your health.

According to WebMD, pumpkins are high in fiber and vitamin A, and low in calories.  Pumpkin is also rich in beta-carotene. Low in calories and tasty—that’s already a big plus for the pumpkin, especially for those of us looking for something big on taste that won’t bulk up our waistlines.  What about pumpkins’ other benefits?

As Arnold Wald, MD, states in his article Patient Information: High-Fiber Diet (Beyond the Basics):  “Eating a diet that is high in fiber has many potential health benefits, including a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes…. A high-fiber diet is a commonly recommended treatment for digestive problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids…”

Then there’s vitamin A, which pumpkins are chock full of. Vitamin A helps with healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It also produces the pigments in the retina of the eye and promotes good vision, especially in low light. And  some studies even suggest that vitamin A may also be needed for reproduction and breast-feeding.

The University of Illinois has this helpful/healthful information about the pumpkin:

“The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body…. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.”

The pumpkin is packed with power, and we haven’t even mentioned the seeds yet. Pumpkin seeds have been linked to everything from preventing hair loss to battling arthritis.  Though the jury is out on some of the more miraculous claims surrounding the pumpkin seed, numerous sources including 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet and The World’s Healthiest Foods, attest the the benefits of this little wonder. The seeds are rich in protein (good news for vegans!), providing about 12 grams per one cup serving. They also have magnesium (helpful in your metabolism and a number of other hormonal processes), zinc (important to strengthen the immune system, cellular functions,  hair and skin health, eyesight, cognitive functions, and even taste and smell), and iron (for retaining the health and overall quality of your blood).   Recent studies also suggest that pumpkin seeds’ vitamin E content may bring us more health benefits than we would ordinarily expect due to the diverse forms of vitamin E found in this food.

As mentioned earlier, not only is it good for you, but it is delicious as well. Pumpkin seeds make a terrific snack.  Pumpkins can also be incredibly diverse; making appearances at breakfast, in the form of muffins or pancakes; in savory entrees such as ravioli and soup; and let’s not forget desserts.