Pumpkins are plentiful every autumn, and they are mostly used for pumpkin pie or for carving Jack-o-Lanterns at Halloween. But there is far more to a pumpkin than meets the eye! Pumpkins have amazing nutritional value!
Pumpkin is a member of the cucurbitaceae family of vegetables (although some categorize pumpkins as fruit), which grow on a vine that creep along the ground. Other members of this family include cucumber, squash and cantaloupes.
Nutritional profile of pumpkin flesh:
- Contains an abundance of antioxidants: Vitamins A, C and E, leutin, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and zea-xanthin.
- Contains B complex vitamins: folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (B-6), thiamin
- Contains minerals: copper, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium
- Does not contain saturated fat or cholesterol
- Is high in fiber: just ½ cup of canned pumpkin contains 5 grams of fiber.
- Contains protein: 1 cup of cooked pumpkin contains 2 grams protein
Health benefits of pumpkin flesh:
- Immune system health: The vitamins and minerals in pumpkin help boost the immune system.
- Neutralize free radicals: The antioxidants help the body to neutralize free radicals which reduces oxidative stress
- Skin health: The Vitamin A content helps the mucous membranes, the skin, and eyes.
- Eye health: Zea-xanthin helps protect the eyes from age related macular disease.
- Cholesterol and weight issues: The fiber content is helpful for controlling cholesterol and reducing weight.
- Protection from heart disease and cancers: Current research shows evidence that the synergistic combination of carotenoids in pumpkin (beta-carotene and alpha-carotene) could possibly protect the body against heart disease and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer such as breast, colon, bladder, cervical, lung and skin. (Carotenoids are the deep red, orange or yellow color compound in plants that are fat soluble phytonutrients)
- Anti-inflammatory: The carotenoids / phytonutrients are also have powerful anti-inflammatory properties which help the body fight inflammation (many medical professionals believe that inflammation is the cause of most chronic illness.)
- Slower aging: Alpha-carotene has been shown to slow down the effects of aging.
- Electrolyte balance: The potassium in pumpkin helps the body maintain its electrolyte balance, and it can also help our muscles.
Nutritional profile of pumpkin seeds:
- Contain Omega3 fatty acids
- Contain fiber
- Contain protein
- Contain minerals and vitamins: copper,iron, niacin, zinc, selenium, manganese and several forms of Vitamin E
- Do not contain cholesterol
- Contain phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol
- Contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is an important component in the production of serotonin, a chemical in our brain that helps us feel good.
Halloween may be over, but those Jack-o-Lanterns are still valuable in the form of nutritious food! So, don’t toss it out – cook it up into a nutritious soup, or healthy muffins or a versatile pumpkin dip. And don’t forget to roast the seeds for an extra nutritional punch! The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the pumpkin and the seeds could help protect you from cancers, promote healthy digestion, improve your immune system for the upcoming winter months, and give your mood a boost!
If you would like to learn more about foods to gain energy, get rid of cravings and improve your overall health, contact me and let’s talk!
© 2014 Cathy Ormon Health Coach. All rights reserved.