PUMPKIN POWER: WHY PUMPKINS ARE A SUPERFOOD

punkingBig, bold and beautiful. You can’t miss it. And it helps that this time of year they’re everywhere. But did you know that pumpkins are actually one of fall’s superfoods? The beauty of pumpkins extends way beyond the decorative. Pumpkins are a nutritional powerhouse and have numerous health benefits. In fact, whether you want to lose weight or just want to be healthy, pumpkins are your go-to food for fall.

One of the great attributes of pumpkin is that even though it is super low in calories (only 49 calories per cup), it boasts incredibly high levels vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid and magnesium, as well as vitamin C and vitamin E. But what makes pumpkins extra special is the high concentration and synergistic combination of carotenoids. And in terms of weight loss, pumpkin really is a treat. Pumpkin being rich in nutrients and high in fiber, but low in calories, means it’s nutritious, while being calorie-poor, but leaves you feeling full. Pumpkin is the nutritional opposite of a donut. And there aren’t many foods that make the cut. Celery for example, a dieters favorite, isn’t exactly delicious or versatile – cooking or taste wise – and you can’t realistically eat enough of it to feel satisfied.

As you’ll see below, pumpkin is packed with vitamins, minerals and other goodies that are good for your health; but to be quite frank, such stuff is always more interesting as an infographic. So, if you like pictures, but reading not so much, skip down for an awesome summary of why exactly pumpkin is a superfood.

 

PUMPKIN PERFECTION

Pumpkins get their bright orange hue from pigments known as carotenoids. Foods boasting high levels of carotenoids have been linked to several health- promoting and disease-fighting activities, and pumpkin is packed with them!

  • Cancer. Several studies suggests that foods rich in carotenoids may reduce the risk of several cancers, including skin, breast, colon, cervical, prostate, lung, and bladder cancer.
  • Heart disease. Research suggests a diet rich in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • žImmune function. Carotenoids is thought to boost immunity.
  • Vision. There are several types of carentoids. Pumpkin is rich alpha-carotene and beta-carotene lutein, which are carotenoids the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A plays an important role in healthy eyesight and also supports immune function. Furthermore, two carotenoids lutein and zeazanthin, as well as Vitamin C found in pumpkin are linked to reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Anti-aging! Recent research shows carotenoids may reduce the risk of premature death. In other words, you’re more likely to live longer! Research also suggests that a diet rich in vegetables that are rich in carotenoids rich foods is linked with having fewer wrinkles. Is there anything they can’t do?

PUMPKIN – EVEN MORE HEALTH BENEFITS

  • Pumpkin is packed with fiber. Pumpkin has such a nice consistency, you wouldn’t think it. Fiber helps to decrease the levels of total and “bad” cholesterol in the blood, helps regulate blood sugar, makes you feel full, promotes healthy digestion, protects against heart disease, and plays a role in weight loss.
  • Pumpkin is a low GI (glycemic index) food, which scientists believe may help protect against early age-related macular detention, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and aid weight loss.
  • Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin C. Research shows that people who eat foods rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, are less likely to suffer with high blood pressure and is associated with lower rates of cancer. Vitamin C in combination with beta-carotene and vitamin E (both of which are found in pumpkin), as well as zinc (found in pumpkin seeds) protect the eyes against age-related macular degeneration.
  • Pumpkin is also a great source of vitamin E, which research shows may reduce the risk of bladder cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, vitamin C helps the body use vitamin E more efficiently, meaning they work synergistically for a more powerful effect. And what do you know? They’re both found in high levels in pumpkin.
  • Pumpkin boasts high levels of potassium. A diet low on natural foods and high in processed foods increases the likelihood of suffering with low potassium, which is linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, digestive problems, arthritis, and infertility.

PUMPKIN SEED AWESOMENESS

But that’s not all the pumpkin has to offer. It’s seeds are full of goodness – or minerals, healthy fat and protein to be more precise, which offer many health benefits.

  • Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, which is important for good energy levels, healthy bones strong nervous and cardiovascular system. Studies also suggest that magnesium may have beneficial effects on diabetes and hypertension. Magnesium may sound common, but less that 1/3 of the US population meet their body’s daily magnesium requirements. Low levels of magnesium are linked with poor energy levels, asthma, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
  • Pumpkin seeds are loaded with a substance called phytosterol, which can help lower cholesterol, boost the immune response and reduce the risk of lung, stomach, ovarian and breast cancer.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a good source of L-tryptophan, a substance, which gets converted to serotonin in the body. Tryptophan depletion means that serotonin levels in the brain are low, which can in turn lead to depression and impaired cognitive function. L-tryptophan may improve mood and help against depression.
  • Not only does zinc help the brain, but it also plays an important role in the body’s immune system. As far back as Egyptian times has zinc been used to improve wound healing, and more recently research from 2012 shows that zinc may actually help reduce the risk of getting ill with the common cold, help speed up recover and reduce the severity of symptoms.
  • Several studies suggest that pumpkin seed oil may be beneficial to prostate health. Pumpkin seeds have been shown to improve symptoms in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is an age-related enlargement of the prostate gland.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

So pumpkin seeds are awesome. But what do you do with them? The easiest thing is to simply roast them and the options are pretty much endless when it comes to seasoning pumpkin seeds:

Savoury: Salt, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin
Herbs: Coriander, thyme, oregano, parsley, rosemary – combine herbs with a little parmesan.
Sweet: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves and allspice

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEED RECIPE
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Rinse the seeds taken from pumpkin insides.
  3. If you want coat seeds with a little (about 1 teaspoon) olive oil.
  4. In a small bowl mix pumpkin seeds with spice/seasoning of choice or combination of seasonings.
  5. Spread the seeds single layer out on baking sheet. Bake until the seeds are puffed and golden brown – 10 – 20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds.
Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds

Follow directions above, but add in a small bowl add 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice.

CHOCOLATE ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of natural brown sugar (demerara/ turbinado/ muscovado) and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. Add unrinsed (helps the mixture stick and gives it a sweet pumpkiny flavor) pumpkin seeds to mixture.
  3. Spray a little olive oil on baking sheet and spread coated seeds out in a single layer.
  4. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Eat them just so, or use to garnish breakfast cereals, steamed or sautéed vegetables, soups (e.g. corn, pumpkin, butternut squash), stews, enchiladas, tacos or salads.

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Rachel C.
Research Scientist Consultant @ U-VIB
PhD, Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling
NREMT-P (National Registry of Paramedics)
– 911 Medic for over 10 years
– Search Scientist for over 7 years
– Runner for LIFE

 

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