Pumpkin Perks

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There is more to this seasonal gourd than just a face to carve, pumpkins offer a powerhouse of nutritional benefits.

Story by Ann Butenas

It’s Official! We have now entered the season of all things pumpkin: spice, lattes, candles, pie, decorations….you name it. Whether you like it or not, the pumpkin is here to stay for a couple of months. Sure, you may go to the pumpkin patch and search for the perfect orange gourd to take precedence on your front porch, but there is more than meets the eye when it comes to this popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple.

While selecting that perfect pumpkin to carve is a time-honored tradition for many, you may be surprised to learn that pumpkins have a host of health benefits. More than just that pumpkin spice latte you have been craving, you can enjoy a wide range of nutritional boosts from this delicious autumn centerpiece.

Want to Lose a Few Pounds? Pumpkins are rich in fiber, which means consuming them can slow down the digestion process. Translation? You will feel full longer. There are seven grams of fiber in a cup of canned pumpkin, which is more than you would get in two slices of whole-grain bread.

Protect Your Peepers! Pumpkins boast ample amounts of beta carotene, which is then converted to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is necessary for good eye health and also helps your retina absorb and process light. Just one single cup of pumpkin offers 200% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, making it the perfect choice to keep you seeing things clearly. Additionally, the lutein and zeaxanthin found in pumpkin may help prevent cataracts and slow the progression of macular degeneration.

Control Your Blood Sugar. Not only are pumpkins low in carbs and an excellent source of plant protein, some studies have suggested consuming pumpkin seeds may help protect against type 2 diabetes or reduce its complications. Taking it one step further, the zinc and iron found in pumpkin seeds help to boost your immune system, which is perfect as we head into the cold and flu season.

The Perfect Facial. The beta carotene found in pumpkin helps to protect us from the wrinkle-causing rays of the sun, but its pulp makes a fantastic exfoliating face mask. Just puree a quarter cup of pumpkin and add an egg, a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of milk. After you mix all the ingredients, apply it to your face and leave it on for about 20 minutes. Then just rinse with warm water.

The Alternative to Halloween Candy

You can roast pumpkin seeds for a crunchy, healthy snack. There are many recipes available online that demonstrate the proper way to fix them. Essentially, you just remove the seeds from the pumpkin, wash and dry them, season them with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper and perhaps a dash of paprika.  Spread them evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 to 30 minutes. Be sure to toss the seeds every five minutes for even browning. You will know they are ready when they offer a nutty aroma and boast a golden brown color. If you have a sweet tooth, you can season the seeds with some cinnamon sugar or some brown sugar. Who knows? You may never have the urge to buy candy again!

The Great Pumpkin

Highly versatile and easy to incorporate into your daily diet, pumpkin is full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making it a healthy option for your meal plans.  Also low in calories, it can keep your waistline in check. So the next time you are at the pumpkin patch, pick up a few extra ones…some to carve and some to just dive right into!

Sources: webmed.com, healthline.com, health.com

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