Health: Is Pumpkin Good for You?
This tasty fall treat is everywhere – but should you indulge so often?
We’ll take pumpkin in any form, from sweet spiced desserts to savory salads, coffee, cocktails, even casseroles. It’s one of our favorite fall foods that we’d gladly eat year-round. Why? It’s a delicious, affordable and versatile ingredient. It’s also incredibly healthy.
“Pumpkin is bursting with health benefits beyond what you might think!” says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, author of “Once Upon a Pumpkin.” It comes in at around 50 calories per cup and packs vitamins E, C and A, as well as potassium and fiber. Pumpkin puree can even double as a butter, oil and egg replacer when modifying recipes for dietary restrictions. “Simply sub 1/4 cup for one egg in baked goods,” Michalczyk recommends.
Here’s what else you’ll reap when relishing fall’s most festive superfood.
Pumpkin packs plenty of antioxidants, including beta carotene (which gives them their orange hue), alpha carotene and other carotenoids. All of these help to neutralize free radicals in your body, which keeps them from damaging your cells, and may offer strong cancer-fighting properties too.
We know that vitamin C helps to strengthen the immune system (it encourages white blood cell production) and since the cold and flu season ramps up in the fall, there’s even more reason to add more pumpkin into your diet. Also, pumpkin’s beta carotene gets converted into vitamin A in the body, and studies have shown that vitamin A helps strengthen your body’s immune system and fight infections.
“Vitamin A is very important for eye health and lowering your risk of sight loss,” Michalczyk says. Pumpkin is also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that are very important for the health of our eyes and may reduce the risk for macular degeneration and cataracts.
Pumpkin contains a variety of nutrients that can improve heart health, including fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Its antioxidants may also prevent LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) from oxidizing in the body, thus lowering your risk of heart disease.
Studies have shown that beta carotene acts as a natural sunblock. The antioxidants in pumpkin are also good for skin texture and appearance, which is especially great in the fall when temps start to dip. The vitamin C in pumpkin helps to stimulate collagen production in the skin, too.
Whatever you do, don’t toss those pumpkin seeds: they’re a good source of protein, iron, magnesium and fiber. “Think outside the box this fall by roasting your pumpkin seeds with turmeric and black pepper or matcha powder and coconut flakes,” Michalczyk says.
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