James Worthington Get Healthy No Comments
What are the Health Benefits of Pumpkins?
What It Is
Fall means pumpkins, and whether they are teeny-tiny or giant-sized, they bring out the happy in all of us. They have personalities that range from sassy to silly but interesting as they may be on the outside, they are tough little suckers to crack into. A member of the gourd family, pumpkins are a fruit, and we readily eat the seeds and pulp. But it isn’t easy to harvest the deliciousness because the skin and flesh make a strong shell that may need an ax to crack. Tough and full of personality, there are tons of good reasons to chow down on your Halloween jack-o-lantern.
The Dirty Deets
Most pumpkins are grown for processing, animal feed and ornamental reasons, but put some in your shopping cart when you see them at the market. With only 50 calories in a boiled cup, the 3 grams of fiber is as satisfying as the flavor (which is easy to further enhance with a sprinkle of cinnamon or brown sugar).
- Before we get to the nutrition perks, let’s start with the sexy stuff. The scent of pumpkin has been linked to arousal in men. Some researchers tell women to put away their perfume and light some pumpkin scented candles to turn their man on. Better yet, a little pumpkin souffle after dinner may be better than Marvin Gaye at sparkin’ your man’s flames.
- Most fruits and veggies that grow close to the soil are rich in minerals, but pumpkins, especially pumpkin seeds in the hull, up the bar for their zinc, iron, copper, tryptophan, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus content. These minerals which are linked to cancer prevention and immune support are found in both the flesh and the seeds, so make it a habit to dig in regularly.
- Canned pumpkin bypasses all of the gut hacking, gore and mess of dealing with fresh pumpkin and if you buy 100% pumpkin, you’ll find 80 calories and 7 grams of fiber in one cup. Canning also concentrates the flavor and lets you have your pumpkin’ fix in June, when there isn’t a hint of Halloween in the air.
How To Chow Down
Look for fresh pumpkins that are free of bruises and feel heavy for their size. Those are the suckers that may need the cleaver, but roast and caramelize to perfection. Find pepitas or pumpkin seeds next to the nuts at your local market and use them as a snack or salad topper or sprinkle themover soups. Be creative with your canned pumpkin by mixing some in your oatmeal, yogurt or as a baking substitute for sour cream, milk or oil.
- Pumpkin soup is a delicious starter or stand alone meal — make it yourself so you know you are getting a healthful version, and not one loaded with cream.
- If you like your pumpkin in the morning, you must try pumpkin oat pancakes, which are full of fiber and satisfyingly sweet. The bonus is that even your gluten-free guests can dig in at your brunch party.
- It is absolutely essential that you know how to perfectly toast up your pumpkin seeds because they are the gift you get for your hard jack-o-carving work. Try making them sweet or savory to make your exceptional snack even better.
In The Know
Sometimes the secret to eating foods you love, like pumpkin, comes with tricks. Look for roasted pumpkin in a salad bar or hot bar, or treat yourself to pumpkin soup when you meet a friend for lunch. Replace the nuts you have been getting tired of with pepitas from the market and use them on top of your side dishes for some crunch. Sometimes having a can of pumpkin smiling at you on your pantry shelf isn’t enough — commit to opening a can and mixing some orange greatness into your breakfast, batter or blender. There you have it, tricks for treats!