Nutrition Tips

Health Benefits of Eating Pumpkin

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Pumpkin? A super food? Many people don't see pumpkins as a food, but rather something that is carved out into a scary decoration on halloween, or pumpkin pie as a guilty pleasure. The truth is that pumpkin contains many beneficial nutrients to your health.

Pumpkin Contains:
- Alpha-carotene
- Beta-carotene
- High Fiber
- Low Calories
- Vitamins C and E
- Potassium
- Magnesium
- Pantothenic acid

SIDEKICKS: carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, orange bell peppers.
According to Dr. Pratt we should eat 1/2 cup most days.

To many the pumpkin is known as a vegetable, when in fact it is actually a fruit. Like melons, it's a member of the gourd family. The greatest part about it is that it's inexpensive, available year round in canned form, incredibly easy to incorporate into recipes, high in fiber, and low in calories. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods Rx list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids known to man. A half cup serving of pumpkin gives you more than two times recommended daily dietary intake of alpha-carotene and 100 percent if daily dietary goal of beta carotene.

"Carotenoids are deep orange, yellow, or red colored, fat-soluble compounds that occur in a variety of plants They protect the plants from sun damage while they help them attract birds and insects for pollination. So far scientists have identified about six hundred carotenoids, and more than fifty of them commonly occur in our diet. Not all dietary carotenoids are efficiently absorbed. As a result, only thirty-four carotenoids have currently been found in our blood and human breast milk. The six most common carotenoids found in human tissue include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta cryptoxanthin.

Foods rich in carotenoids have been linked to many health-promoting and disease fighting activities. They have been shown to decrease the risk of cancers such as; lung cancer, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin. Carotenoids have also shown great ability to lower the rates of heart disease, as well as cataracts and macular degeneration.

So how can you get pumpkin into your diet, besides around Thanksgiving time? Pumpkin is usually available fresh only in autumn and early winter and the rest of the year you might have trouble finding one. But one of the best features of pumpkin is that it's readily available all year long in an inexpensive canned form. Pumpkin out of a can may not seem healthy, or appetizing but canned pumpkin is actually more nutritious. Canned pumpkin puree ( don't get it mixed up with "pumpkin pie filling", which has added sugar and spices ) has been cooked down to reduce the water content that you'd find in fresh pumpkin. At only 83 calories a cup, it offers more than 400 percent of beta-carotene recommendations, as well as almost half of the iron requirement for adult men and postmenopausal women.

Another benefit of pumpkin is its seeds. They are rich in vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Morever, they are a great plant based source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Some other good sources of Carotenoids are:
Alpha-Carotene All-Stars
Pumpkin (cooked 1 cup) 11.7mg
Carrots (cooked 1 cup) 6.6mg
Butternut squash (cooked 1 cup) 2.3mg
Orange bell pepper (1 cup) 0.3mg
Collards (cooked 1 cup) 0.2mg

Beta-Carotene All-Stars
Sweet potatoe (cooked, 1 cup) 23mg
Pumpkin (cooked, 1 cup) 17mg
Carrots (cooked, 1 cup) 13mg
Spinach (cooked, 1 cup) 11.3mg
Butternut squash (cooked, 1 cup) 9.4mg

Confused on how to enjoy pumpkin all year around? Here is a recipe from the book SuperFoods Rx:

Patty's Pumpkin Pudding

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
2 large eggs ( with high omega-3 content, as noted on label)
one 15-ounce can Libby's 100 percent pure pumpkin
One 12 ounce can evaporated nonfat milk (or evaporated 2 percent milk)

Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk. Pour into a shallow ovenproof dish and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Don't overbake; the center should be slightly wiggly. Cool and enjoy at room temperature.

Little did I know pumpkin has more uses than carving it into funny looking halloween creatures, and satisfying a sweet tooth on thanksgiving day. Now it can be enjoyed year around. Enjoy! Its good for you!

Works Cited-
Pratt, S.G., K. Matthews (2004). SuperFoods Rx Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

More about this author: Amber Harman

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