Pumpkins are featured in a variety of delicious treats and dishes during the holiday season. But did you know that this colorful and easy to prepare vegetable contains loads of nutrients? Here are some of the surprising health benefits of pumpkin that will have you reaching for an extra slice of pie at Thanksgiving.
Pumpkins get their orange hue from beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is converted to Vitamin A. According to the National Institute of Health, Vitamin A boosts vision especially in dim lighting. A cup of cubed pumpkin contains twice the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that slow down the progress of degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness.
Promotes Weight Loss
A cup of pumpkin contains about 50 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Because of this low calorie and high fiber content, you consume fewer calories and feel fuller for longer. This makes it a useful substitute for extra sugar in many recipes. Pumpkin puree can also be used as a spread in place of fatty nut butters. So the good news is, adding pumpkin to your baked goods and savory dishes can help place them on your weight loss food list.
Improves Heart & Muscle Health
Perhaps one of the most surprising health benefits of pumpkin is its high potassium content. With about 550 mg per serving, even higher than the much touted banana, this makes it one of the best foods for optimal muscle and heart health. Potassium aids in muscle recovery, so fitness enthusiasts should consider a pumpkin snack post workout.
Research shows that pumpkin seed oil which is rich in phytoestrogens is useful in preventing hypertension.
A Swedish study of men and women also revealed that a high fiber diet reduces risk of heart disease by up to 25%. Getting your fiber from vegetables such as pumpkin gives you the additional health benefits.
Boosts Prostate Health
Pumpkin seeds contain zinc which is essential for male sexual health. A study of young men revealed that low dietary intake of zinc led to low testosterone levels. The beta-carotene in pumpkin helps protect against certain cancers including prostate cancer. Research done in Taiwan also showed that pumpkin seed oil prevents unhealthy prostate growth in male rats.
Promotes Sleep and Improves Moods
If you usually have a hard time falling sleep, pumpkin may do the trick. It contains an amino acid called Tryptophan which is used to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps you relax and fall asleep. Boosting your serotonin levels will also improve your mood.
There are many types of pumpkin you can eat to enjoy all these nutritional benefits. However, they vary in sugar, fat and water content, making some better for cooking than others. Some common pumpkin types are the Baby Pam, Cinderella, Baby Bear, Long Pie, Fairy Tale, New England Pie and Long Island Cheese.
For added health benefits of pumpkin, consume the seeds as they are packed with proteins and healthy fats.
Interested in getting more pumpkin in your diet? It’s easy! Pumpkin can be prepared just as you would any kind of squash. You can easily bake, grill or roast it. Any recipe that calls for squash, you can use pumpkin. All pumpkins are edible, but may have a slightly different taste (some are sweeter than others) and some have more edible “meat” than others. The Baby Pam and Casillas pumpkins are the most widely used because of their slightly sweeter flavor, but like previously stated, all pumpkins are edible.
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