Enjoy The Many Benefits of Pumpkin This Fall
Yes, pumpkins look adorable carved and glowing on a front porch, and taste delicious baked into a pie slathered with whipped cream. But they’re also a super healthy food –loaded with nutrients and possibilities.
Here are a couple reasons to think beyond the jack-o-lantern, and really dig into the healthy benefits of the great pumpkin.
Fill Up on Fiber, Fiber and More Fiber
Pumpkins pack a healthy dose of fiber, which is proven to support digestive health, regulate blood sugar and reduce the risk of heart disease. Basically, the more fiber, the better. And to that end, pumpkin is an obvious choice.
Feel Fuller Longer
Because pumpkins are low in calories (only about 50 calories per cup) and are very filling (due to the high fiber content), pumpkin is an excellent choice for those looking to trim their waistlines. Adding pumpkin to a recipe can instantly make the average soup, muffin or casserole much healthier, and much tastier.
Tap the Power of Orange
Pumpkins are orange because they’re full of the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, which is a contributing component of cancer-fighting foods, according to the National Cancer Institute. And while beta-carotene supplements get the job done, whole foods – like the pumpkin – are the best way for your body to soak up the antioxidant.
The benefits of beta-carotene don’t stop there. It’s converted to vitamin A in the body, which is essential for healthy vision. A single cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of most people's recommended daily intake of vitamin A, making it an outstanding supporter of optical health.
Don’t Forget the Seeds
Yes, even pumpkin seeds are healthy, and some might even argue, the most delicious part of all. Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in plant sterols, which have been shown to reduce LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) in studies, and might even ward off certain types of cancer. So go ahead. Roast them, toast them, bake them, just eat them! But please go easy on the salt.
Year-Round Pumpkin Recipes
Of course, to truly take advantage of the benefits of pumpkin, it has to be incorporated into healthy recipes. (We’re not talking about pumpkin lattes, pumpkin ice cream, or even, sorry, pumpkin pie.) Here are some heart-healthy ways to add pumpkin to your everyday diet. And don’t forget -- fresh pumpkins are in season during the fall months, but canned pumpkin is a fantastic way to enjoy the health benefits of pumpkins all year round. So, no excuses!
- Pumpkin Seeds: Toss seeds in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Flip the seeds and roast for another 15-20 minutes. Seeds are delicious eaten on their own, or tossed onto a healthy veggie salad.
- Pumpkin Oatmeal: Mix a half cup of canned pumpkin with a cup of cooked oats. Add a little milk, a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon, and top with chopped walnuts. It’s like pumpkin pie, but much healthier. Get the full recipe here.
- Pumpkin Soup: Creamy, decadent, yet surprisingly healthy, this pumpkin soup recipe packs a tasty punch of heart-healthy nutrients. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds for an extra pop of flavor.
- The Hidden Pumpkin: Adding canned pumpkin to baked goods, breads, pasta sauces and smoothies is a great way to sneak in a little extra fiber. This whole wheat pumpkin muffin recipe also incorporates applesauce, which can be used as a natural sweetener.