Pumpkins Aren’t Just for Carving!
By Lisa Metzgar, PhD, Nutrition Tidbits
I love this time of year! The weather is starting to get a little cooler, and the leaves are changing color.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. With the fall harvest comes pumpkins! Pumpkins aren’t just for carving our jack-o-lanterns. They are a great source of nutrition and are pretty darn tasty. Eating with the season is always optimal for your health. Try to eat as much of the locally grown crops for each season and you will feel at your best! Fall is the time for squashes, potatoes (I prefer sweet potatoes), nuts and seeds. Pumpkins are a great addition to your diet. Children love the taste because there is a natural sweetness.
Some of the nutritional benefits of pumpkins include:
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ It is one of the vegetables which is very low calories; provides just 26 cal per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich a source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. They are a great food to add into your diet to keep cholesterol in check and lose weight.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E. All of these vitamins prevent oxidative damage to your cells. Oxidative damage leads to inflammation, poor function, and even cancer.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetable in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cancers.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>It is also an excellent source of many natural flavonoid compoundes like alpha and beta carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the eyes. Thus, it helps protect from "age related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>Rich in B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>§ <!–[endif]–>Pumpkin seeds are good source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are good for heart health. In addition, they are very good in protein, minerals and many health benefiting vitamins. For example 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 cal, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc… but no cholesterol. The seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan.
There are many things you can make with pumpkins. Of course there is always the famous pumpkin pie. You can also make soups, soufflés, curried pumpkin, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin custard, stuffing, roasted pumpkin with apples, and roasted pumpkin seeds as a tasty snack. There are many great pumpkin recipes on the internet.
Have a healthy and safe Halloween!