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Healthy and In Season: Pumpkins!

As we quickly come up on Halloween and Thanksgiving, images of bright orange pumpkins are hard to ignore.  Their bright orange color is festive and upbeat, putting the worst of moods to rest.  But, more than a nice mental health pick-me-up, pumpkins offer up a lot of great physical healthful benefits too!  This season, put down your carving knife and start enjoying the sweet taste of pumpkins and the distinct taste of pumpkin seeds.  There’s lots of reason to do so!

But, before we dive into the details of the healthy side of pumpkins, here are a few fun-facts:

Fun-Facts

  • Globe-Trotter: Six of seven continents can grow pumpkins.  Only on Antarctica are pumpkins unable to grow.
  • Edible Flowers: Add pumpkin flowers to salads or dishes to make them oh-so-pretty.
  • Jack of ALL Lanterns (or Trades!): First harvested in Central America, Native Americans used pumpkins for food, medicine and even household items, such as mats.
  • Good Enough for a Leprechaun: Carving pumpkins is originally an Irish tradition.  They originally carved turnips, but found pumpkins to be much easier to carve.
  • Your Chariot Awaits!: Cinderella could have very well ridden in a pumpkin at midnight.  Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds, with the largest ever grown weighing 1,140 pounds! (BOY! That is a lot of carving to do!)

Benefits

  1. Cancer Fighter: Much like carrots, pumpkins are loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene.  Those who consume diets rich in this nutrient are said to be less likely to develop certain cancers than those who don’t include it in their diets.
  2. Hypertension: Pumpkin seeds are high in potassium which is known to lower the risk for hypertension.
  3. Immune System: As a result of its zinc content, pumpkin is wonderful in boosting your immune system.
  4. Bone Health: Zinc also helps support bone density and, as a result, lessens the risk for osteoporosis.
  5. Digestion: 90% made of water and high in fiber (3 gms per 50 calories), pumpkins are wonderful for aiding digestion.  Fiber, specifically, is known to help fight cancer and heart disease, as well as other diseases.
  6. Arthritis Prevention: Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, pumpkin seeds may help to diminish symptoms of arthritis.
  7. Anti-Aging: As a result of pumpkin’s high vitamin A, vitamin C and alpha-hydrox-acid content, pumpkins are helpful in reducing the signs of aging and great for your skin.

Ideas to Get into Your Diet

  • Seeds:
    • Roast the seeds for a healthy snack on their own
    • Add seeds to cereals (or look for cereals that already contain them, such as Nature’s Path Flax and Pumpkin Seed Granola)
    • Add seeds to salads
  • Pumpkin Flesh:
    • Soups: Cut up pumpkin and heat in a pot with curry and other spices you enjoy.  Once well cooked, blend in a food processor with vegetable or chicken broth for a tasty soup.
    • Bread: Use applesauce instead of butter to keep it low-fat.
    • Pie:You can’t beat pumpkin pie at Thanskgiving
    • Side Dish:  Much like squash, pumpkin is great as a side dish on its own.

Do you like pumpkins?  How do you eat them?
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Posted in Brett's Blog, Nutrition Tagged with: , ,