Think of the word pumpkin and images of jack-o-lanterns or whipped cream-covered Thanksgiving pies will probably pop into your mind.
Pumpkin is traditionally considered a holiday food and is a staple in our kitchen pantries and freezers during that festive time of the year.
However, did you know that pumpkin is now heralded as one of the ‘Super Foods?’
According to Dr. Steven Pratt, author of SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, ‘Well, pumpkin is one of the most nutritionally valuable foods known to man. Moreover, it’s inexpensive, available year round in canned form, incredibly easy to incorporate into recipes, high in fiber, low in calories, and packs an abundance of disease fighting nutrients.’
What exactly makes pumpkin so super? The powerful antioxidants known as carotenoids give this food its super status. Carotenoids have the ability to ward off the risk of various types of cancer and heart disease, along with, cataracts and macular degeneration.
The Health Benefits of Pumpkins and Pumpkin Seeds
- Because pumpkin is high in fiber, it can aid in weight loss efforts (1).
- Pumpkin seeds, which are naturally rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols, have been shown in studies to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. (1)
- Pumpkins contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which may play a role in cancer prevention, according to the National Cancer Institute.
- Health magazine reported the same free-radical-neutralizing powers of the carotenoids in pumpkin that may keep cancer cells at bay can also help keep the skin wrinkle-free.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan which is important in production of serotonin, one of the major players when it comes to our mood, WebMD reports.
- A cup of cooked pumpkin has more of the refueling nutrient potassium, with 564 milligrams. The extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles functioning at their best. (1)
- At 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucusa. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A may help human body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers. (2)
- Pumpkins are a solid source of Vitamin C. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 11 milligrams, or nearly 20 percent of the 60 milligrams the IOM recommends women need daily. (Men should shoot for around 75 milligrams.) (1)
- Pumpkin is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
- Pumpkin seeds could be especially healthy for men. Researchers in Taiwan found pumpkin seed oil blocked unhealthy prostate growth in male rats. A quarter cup of the seeds also contains about 2.75 mg of zinc (about 17 percent of the recommended daily intake for adults), which contributes to male sexual health. When young men in a Wayne State University study restricted their dietary zinc intake, they had significantly lower levels of testosterone after 20 weeks. (3)
- Pumpkin seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain. (2)
How can we add this wonder food to our diets through out the year? Take advantage of the benefits and great taste of pumpkin with the following delicious Pumpkin Recipes.
Any Day Pumpkin Pancakes
2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
2-1/4 tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup of pumpkin
Measure flour into bowl and add dry ingredients. Stir in buttermilk and add pumpkin. Mix Well. Cook on hot griddle or skillet until golden brown.
Pumpkin Spiced Muffins
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl cream butter with brown sugar. Beat in eggs, then
pumpkin and milk.
In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, spices, salt and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Check out our recipe for Halloween Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
The Art of Manliness has a great recipe for how to roast pumpkin seeds.
And here are a few ways to spice up your roasted pumpkin seeds.