From the patch to the porch to the pie to the seeds, pumpkins are a signature symbol of the fall season. Not only are they widely used for autumn décor and enjoyed as a focal point of fall activities, pumpkins are also utilized to create many fall recipes and treats. A common misconception about this large melon is that it is considered to be a vegetable, but, it is actually classified as a fruit. Like all fruits, the pumpkin comes from a flowering plant and contains inner seeds.
Delicious & Nutritious
Because of its versatile flavor, pumpkin can be made to taste sweet or savory. The inner flesh of a pumpkin is often mashed up into a puree and combined with fall spices to make a wide variety of pies, breads, baked goods, side dishes, and soups. Its seeds can even be roasted for a crunchy, delicious snack. However, pumpkin also brings some excellent health benefits to the table, making it the perfect choice for your favorite fall food indulgences. As a low-calorie food containing only about 30 calories per cup, pumpkin is packed with nutritious vitamins and minerals. Following are seven ways pumpkin can work wonders for your health.
- Supports Weight Loss: Any weight loss journey can be more successful by incorporating foods that help satisfy hunger for longer, with less calories added to your diet. Because pumpkin is full of fiber and dense with nutrients, it is a very satiating fruit that can create an extended feeling of fullness. Additionally, pumpkin contains fewer calories per serving than other carbohydrates, such as rice and potatoes.
- Strengthens Eyesight: Rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and zinc, pumpkin can do a lot to help your vision. While vitamin A protects the cornea and helps the eyes adjust to low lighting, vitamin C reduces the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in adults. Antioxidants in pumpkin, like lutein and zeaxanthin, can reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases and protect eyes from harmful wavelengths of light. Finally, zinc plays an essential role in delivering vitamin A to the eye’s retina for the production of melanin, which helps protect eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Boosts Immunity: In addition to helping with eyesight, vitamins A and C can strengthen your immune system so it is better equipped to fight off outside “enemies,” such as germs, bacteria, viruses, toxins, and fungi that could make you sick. Vitamin C also helps increase white blood cell production to support the more effective functioning of immune cells and the faster healing of wounds. Lastly, pumpkin boasts high amounts of vitamin E, iron, and folate, which are also helpful to boosting immunity.
- Helps Fight Heart Disease, Stroke & Osteoporosis: Potassium, which aids in the prevention of heart disease, is another key mineral found in pumpkin. Studies have shown that potassium helps reduce blood pressure by removing excess sodium from the body. High blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease. Potassium is also scientifically proven to help prevent stroke and osteoporosis, a condition that causes the bones to weaken. Meanwhile, the folate content in pumpkin can help lower blood pressure as well. Folate is used for the formation of red blood cells and iron to help circulate oxygen in the body—a key component of heart health.
- Promotes Better Brain Health: Tasty to many are the seeds of the pumpkin that can be cleaned, seasoned, and roasted for a crunchy snack. Not only pleasing to the palate, pumpkin seeds are rich in several micronutrients that are key to brain function, including copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Copper is used by the brain to help control nerve signals, magnesium is helpful for memory and learning, higher levels of iron can prevent brain fog, and zinc is very important to nerve signaling in the brain.
- Helps Prevent Cancer: Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid or pigment that gives them their deep orange color. Carotenoids are also antioxidants that help fight off free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules made naturally by the body. Created by things like toxic chemicals, smoking, alcohol, and fried foods, free radicals hurt our bodies by breaking down and damaging cells over time. Damaged cells can lead to the formation of cancer cells, and because antioxidants like beta-carotene can help lessen or prevent the effects of free radicals, they contribute to the prevention of cancer and promote better health.
- Creates Healthier Skin: Most of the nutrients that are plentiful in pumpkin are loved by human skin, making it stronger, healthier, and better able to block and withstand the sun’s harmful rays. These include beta-carotene (considered a natural sunblock), vitamins C and E, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Getting Creative With Pumpkin
Whether pureed from scratch or scooped out of a can, pumpkin has a lot to offer your healthy routine this fall. In addition to baking pumpkin into your muffins, pies, and breads, also think about adding it to your morning smoothie, snack-time vanilla yogurt, or evening bowl of pudding. Roasted pumpkin seeds taste great atop your favorite salad or in your granola, and chunks of pumpkin can also be chopped up, seasoned, and roasted for a delectable side dish. For maximum health benefits, be sure to limit the amount of sugar and saturated fats you are also adding to your pumpkin recipes.
Not only can pumpkin help satisfy your taste buds with its signature “sometimes sweet, sometimes savory flavor,” but it can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and illness, support weight loss, and promote the better functioning of your eyes and brain. It can even strengthen your skin. This fall, get creative and incorporate pumpkin as a key ingredient into your healthy diet.