Between Thanksgiving and Halloween, each autumn, hundreds of thousands of pumpkins are honored – dressed up and displayed on colorful table runners, or staged in frightening splendor to welcome children in search of sweets. But the celebratory jack o' lantern is not just for show; it’s also chalk full of health benefits!
Pumpkin flesh is chalk full of fibre, vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and phosphorus - and it contains a host of other vitamins and minerals including potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins B2, B5, and E. Like other orange-colored vegetables and fruits, pumpkins are very high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Why do we need Vitamin A? Well, lots of reasons! Vitamin A promotes good vision (especially night vision), it is essential for the maintenance of healthy skin, teeth and mucous membranes, and Vitamin A is your body's first line of defence from invading organisms. Just one-half cup serving (125 ml) of cooked pumpkin provides more than 25% of your day's worth of vitamin A.With only 25 calories per serving (1/2 cup of cooked pumpkin), this deliciously versatile fruit is rich in antioxidants, which protect us from free radicals damage associated with cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancers, and aging.
Everything is good in the pumpkin, both the pulp and the seeds. Here are some tasty ways to enjoy your pumpkins this season:
- Pumpkin pulp: Nothing says autumn like pumpkin-focused recipes. Cooked pumpkin pulp makes a great addition to homemade muffins, smoothies, and pancakes! Pumpkin meat also tastes great on its own, whether mashed, grilled, or barbecued.
- Pumpkin seeds: Shelled pumpkin seeds make a delicious, healthy snack either on their own (roasted or raw) or tossed into salads, smoothies, homemade energy bars, or oatmeal for a nutritious breakfast. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein, iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds also provide high concentrations of the amino acid tryptophan - a nutrient that plays an important role in the creation of niacin, which is essential in creating the neurotransmitter serotonin. One-quarter of a cup of pumpkin seeds provides 9 grams of protein, 2.5 milligrams of iron and 2.3 milligrams of zinc, not to mention plenty of potassium.
- Pumpkin seed butter: Pumpkin seed butter is a healthy peanut-free alternative for school lunches or for those who suffer from nut allergies. Spread this iron rich seed butter on whole grain toast or crackers, or incorporate into your favorite energy ball or smoothie recipe for a protein boost.
- Pumpkin seed oil: Pumpkin seed oil is composed of over 60% heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids. Try pumpkin seed oil in salad dressings or drizzle a little over your grain bowls. It's derived from a specific breed of pumpkin called the Styrian pumpkin.
Elizabeth’s Tip: Pumpkin and squash are often confused. When in doubt: trust the stem! The pumpkin stem is hard and has five well-marked angles, while the stem of the squash is softer and more cylindrical.
Ready to put your health first? Click on the button below to request an appointment with a registered dietitian or to request more information about our preventive health services.
Author: By Lily Elizabeth Lam, Registered Dietitian, Medisys Montreal
Spread health and wellness. Share this article!