It’s officially autumn and with this season I always think of pumpkins! We carve them, decorate with them and best of all, we eat pumpkin in many delicious ways! Loaded with vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is low in calories, so indulge! In today’s post, I’m going to share the health benefits of eating real pumpkin (not to be confused with artificial seasonings) along with one of my favorite recipes and links to beautiful, easy-to-make table centerpieces!
Did you know that pumpkin:
Is NOT a vegetable; it’s a fruit! In fact, it’s a berry. Pumpkins belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, melons, squash, and gourds. (The general rule is that an edible plant is categorized as a fruit if it has seeds, but without seeds, it’s a vegetable. So that makes a tomato a fruit as well!)
- A cup of cubed pumpkin contains twice the recommend daily intake of Vitamin A which promotes good vision and slows the decline of retinal function.
- With all of its Vitamin A, pumpkin helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones
- Lowers blood pressure
- Provides incredible fiber protecting your heart, the male prostate and helping you feel full longer. Fiber also helps one digest food more efficiently, thus absorbing more nutrients.
More health benefits from Pumpkin Seeds and Oil:
One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains almost 50% of daily recommended amount of magnesium aiding the pumping of your heart, bone and tooth formation, relaxation of blood vessels and proper bowel function. Further, according to Dr. Mercola, magnesium helps prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack and stroke.
- Rich source of zinc aiding one’s immune system, cell growth, sleep, mood, taste, smell, insulin regulation. Deficiencies in zinc are linked to increased colds and flu, depression, acne, low birth weight babies and learning problems in children
- Raw seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3s
- An important natural food for men’s prostate health
- Improves insulin regulation and prevents diabetic complications according to some studies
Rich in natural phytoestrogens reducing hot flashes, headaches, joint pains and other menopausal symptoms in women while also leading to increases in good “HDL” cholesterol
- Rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers, may provide heart and liver health, especially when missed with flax seeds
- Rich in tryptophan, an amino acid and building block, that our bodies convert to serotonin which in turn converts to melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” Eating a few several hours before bed along with a small carbohydrate or piece of fruit can be very beneficial in getting a good night’s sleep
- Pumpkin seed oil has wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits, helping with arthritis and other joint issues
What’s the Best Way to Get the Most from Pumpkin?
- According to Dr. Mercola, pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw and fresh (check your bulk bins before buying. He also recommends buying organic to avoid pesticides.
- If you like your seeds roasted do it on a low setting in your oven (no more than 170 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 15-20 minutes and sprinkle with Himalayan salt or another natural salt for flavor.
- Using fresh pumpkin and preparing it yourself gives the most health benefits but canned is also a great choice. Just steer clear from the canned pumpkin pie version which contain lots of added sugars and syrups. Best canned pumpkin is organic with one ingredient: pumpkin.
Five Easy Ways to Consume and Enjoy Pumpkins:
- Roasted pumpkin cubes are delicious on any of your favorite salads; add toasted pumpkin seeds to amp up the health benefits
- Roast or sauté diced pumpkin with diced squash and/or sweet potatoes-add a dash of cayenne for a flavorful side dish
- Replace applesauce with organic pumpkin puree in your favorite apple-bran muffin
- Preheat oven to 350 F, toss seeds with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. For a spicier version, add cinnamon, cayenne or brown sugar
- Stir organic pumpkin puree into soups, stews and chili, pasta sauces and hummus. While it won’t change the flavor, it adds significantly to the nutritional value.
Last but not least, click here for “Yummy Pumpkin Bread,” a delicious AND healthy recipe a friend shared with me a couple years ago. The original recipe comes from the Monastery of the Angels in Hollywood; my friend made some changes so that the recipe was healthier. It’s now one of my favorites and I like to make this in big batches to give to friends and/or freeze for later.
Pumpkin Pulp and Younger Skin!
Yes, the beta-carotene in pumpkin helps protect our skin, but save the pulp for this all natural face mask that exfoliates and soothes!
- Take 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie), an egg, one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of milk.
- Mix, apply, wait 20 minutes and rinse with warm water!! You’ll be glowing!
Pumpkin Beauty in your Home!
While you’re getting into the zone of this beautiful time of year, pick up an extra pumpkin and try your hand at one of these easy to make projects for pretty fall table centerpieces! It’s amazing how many inexpensive ways we can fill a pumpkin shell. I try to use some of my own plant material from outdoors. With a simple pumpkin, a block of oasis, a few pretty sprigs of different leaf cuttings, snips of mums or dahlias from my pots, some grass and berries, I’ve got a pretty, inexpensive table centerpiece! You can also rotate the plant material out as long as the pumpkin lasts.
Let’s all “pump up” our pumpkin consumption this fall! I encourage you to try something in addition to your favorite pumpkin pies and muffins. And while you’re trying new recipes how about picking up a few extra pumpkins to decorate and bring the season indoors!
Peace and Good Health!
CNN – Chris Obenschain October 2014
Fruits and Veggies – More Matters
LA Times CA Cookbook – Yummy Pumpkin Bread (original recipe-Monastery of the Angels in Hollywood)
Medical News Today – August 2014
San Francisco Gate – Sara Ipatenco – The Health Benefits of Eating Pumpkin Puree
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