Pumpkin isn't just for pie or jack-o-lanterns. Full of vitamins, essential fatty acids, minerals and fiber -- this superfood should be consumed happily and often. The nutrients found in pumpkin prevent and alleviate conditions such as cancer, inflammation, kidney stones, depression, skin complaints and parasitic infections. Since autumn is the traditional time for pumpkin, the opportunity is ripe to take pleasure in all the bright, health-enhancing benefits of this humble vegetable.
Outstanding nutritional benefits help curb disease
Whether enjoyed in a pie, baked good, soup or simply straight-up, pumpkin is a delicious and nutrient rich addition to any diet. Check out the exceptional qualities of this familiar orange food:
Vitamin A - Alpha- and beta-carotene antioxidants are a class of carotenoids that convert into usable vitamin A within the body. Beta-carotene is anti-inflammatory and helps to reverse skin damage caused by the sun. Alpha-carotene hinders tumor growth, slows aging and protects against cataracts. Additionally, carotenoids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and boost immunity.
Vitamin C - Vitamin C balances cholesterol levels, fights free radicals and encourages collagen production. It also fortifies the body against cancer and supports the immune system.
Magnesium - Loaded with magnesium, both pumpkin seeds and pulp supply this important mineral. Required for healthy teeth and bones along with proper immune and heart function, magnesium plays a crucial role in the body.
Vitamin E - As a key antioxidant, vitamin E contributes to healthy skin and offers protection against Alzheimer's disease along with certain types of cancer. Pumpkin seeds supply vitamin E in a range of forms including alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol.
Fiber - Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber -- containing five grams per half-cup serving. Adequate fiber intake helps to protect against heart disease, assists in weight loss, supports healthy digestion and balances blood sugar levels.
Pantothenic acid - Otherwise known as vitamin B5, this nutrient helps the body to manage stress and equalize hormones.
Potassium and Zinc - Pumpkin flesh is potassium-rich and promotes heart health by calming hypertension. Zinc supports the immune and reproductive systems -- pumpkin seeds are a first-rate source.
L-tryptophan - Abundant in this feel-good amino acid, pumpkin prevents depression and encourages a bright outlook.
Pumpkin is also anti-parasitic and a natural diuretic. Additionally, kidney stones can be avoided by consuming five to ten grams of pumpkin seeds a day. And lets not forget about the high protein value of the seeds -- seven grams per ounce.
With all these great virtues, what's not to like? Mix pumpkin puree into yogurt or oatmeal, add to baked goods and soup, sprinkle the seeds onto salads or use in granola, instead of pine nuts, use pumpkin seeds for a unique pesto. As you can see, it's easy to reap the health benefits of pumpkin each day -- no need to wait for Thanksgiving.