Fall is a great time for pumpkins! Your local coffee shop, ice cream parlor and donut store offer pumpkin flavored varieties in the fall, although consuming something flavored with pumpkin shouldn’t be confused with actually eating a real pumpkin. How can you leverage the great flavor of the real vegetable to improve your health?
The oil in those yummy little seeds has some real super-food qualities. In a 2011 study of post-menopausal women given pumpkin seed oil, the “good” HDL cholesterol was raised and diastolic blood pressure was lowered. Another study found that eating pumpkin seeds lowered the risk of breast cancer. For men, a Korean study in 2014 found pumpkin seed oil reversing the effects of male pattern baldness. Generally speaking it just makes good sense to add these nutrient dense, low glycemic index seeds to your diet. Adding a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds to your daily fare adds significant amounts of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, zinc, protein and iron. Tryptophan, an amino acid, is another good reason to eat pumpkin seeds. This amino acid promotes good moods and healthy sleep.
How should you eat pumpkin seeds? Some experts in nutrition think raw seeds eaten with the hard outer shell are the best choice. If you like them better roasted, you will still get great health benefits as long as you keep the cooking to a minimum. Roast them in the oven at 175° F for 15 to 20 minutes. If you cook them for more than 20 minutes the fat begins to break down, and you lose some of the nutrients.
Low in calories and high in fiber, mashed pumpkin makes a great addition to your diet. Whether fresh or from a can, it is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene. Carotenoids like beta-carotene protect the body from free radicals that damage cells. Eating foods that supply anti-oxidants boost your immune system and may lower your risk for some cancers and chronic diseases. Studies have found a positive benefit to a diet high in beta-carotene for those with prostate cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. Your body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, also called retinol. Vitamin A is necessary to help keep your eyes healthy. Containing about as much potassium as a banana, cooked pumpkin can help your muscles recover from a workout, balance your electrolytes and protect you from a stroke. Worried about type 2 diabetes? By encouraging the release of insulin, scientists have found that pumpkin reduces blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Are you convinced to add some pumpkin to your diet? If you are choosing a fresh pumpkin, stick to the smaller varieties for best flavor and ease in chopping. The big jack-o-lantern pumpkins are a little tough and stringy for good soup making. Canned pumpkin puree is fine, just be sure to choose the puree, not the pie filling. Bump up