It’s pumpkin season! My pumpkin always sits on my front doorstep as a decoration for Halloween, but as soon as November gets here, I jump right into cutting and cooking that baby up to make some amazing pumpkin recipes, and most importantly, roasting the seeds!
Do you know how healthy pumpkins are for us? Now that I know and understand their health benefits, I love to cook and freeze some of my pumpkins to use throughout the year. This year rather than tossing your pumpkin away, try cooking it and getting all the nutritional benefits.
Most of us think of pumpkin as being a vegetable, when actually it’s a fruit, as it contains seeds. Nutritionally speaking though, it’s more similar to vegetables than fruits. Not only does it taste delicious, but pumpkins are linked to many health benefits. Here are 6 impressive nutrition and health benefits of pumpkin.
Health Benefit #1 – Highly Nutritious and Particularly Rich in Vitamin A and C
Besides being packed with vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is also relatively low in calories, as its 94% water. Just one cup of pumpkin gives you enough vitamin A for two days! Vitamin A helps to protect your eyes against sight loss. Vitamin A is also good for your skin and bones and can strengthen your immune system to help fight infections.
Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production, help immune cells work more effectively and make wounds heal faster.
Health Benefit #2 – They are nutrient dense and filled with fiber
Not only are they filled full of fabulous nutrients, but they also have fiber which helps keep you satisfied, and can, therefore, help you control your appetite. Fiber also helps with healthy digestion and elimination. Eating fiber on a regular basis is also great for keeping your heart strong and healthy, so enjoy those pumpkins all you can this season.
Health Benefit #3 – Full of potassium
You probably know that bananas are known for their high amounts of potassium, but pumpkins contain even more potassium than bananas do. Potassium is great to consume after a work-out as it restores the body’s balance and keeps your muscles functioning smoothly. It’s also able to reduce cramps and boost your metabolism. Higher potassium intakes can also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of strokes – both of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Health Benefit #4 – You won’t have any trouble sleeping
Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan – an amino acid that assists in making you sleep like a baby. It also helps produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for making us feel happy and relaxed.
So not only will enjoying pumpkin & pumpkin seeds help you sleep great, but it can also boost your mood!
Health Benefit #5 – Keeps your immune system strong
We’ve all heard of vitamin C and the magic it can do when you’re feeling under the weather. Pumpkin provides a nice dose of Vitamin C, among its other health benefits, so keep finding ways to add pumpkin to your meals to keep your immune system strong, especially now that cold and flu season is here.
Health Benefit #6 – Contains Compounds That Promote Healthy Skin
Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients that are great for your skin. For one, it’s high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A, which I mentioned earlier was good for your eyes. Once ingested, carotenoids are transported to various organs including your skin. Here, they help protect skin cells against damage from harmful UV rays.
Pumpkin has vitamin C, which is essential for healthy skin. Your body needs this vitamin to make collagen, a protein that keeps your skin strong and healthy.
Pumpkin is delicious, versatile and easy to add to your diet. Its sweet flavor makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like pies and pancakes. However, it works just as well in savory dishes such as roasted vegetables and soups.
As you can see, pumpkins are one of Mother Nature’s amazing foods. If you don’t want to cook a pumpkin, it’s also available pre-cut in the grocery store or canned, giving you flexibility with your recipes and easy preparation. When buying canned, be sure to read labels carefully, you want to buy 100% pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling to avoid added ingredients, particularly sugar.
Although pumpkin is healthy, many pumpkin-based junk foods — such as lattés, candies and pie fillings — are loaded with added sugar. Check ingredients as a lot of those do not offer the same health benefits as consuming the actual fruit.
Pumpkins have a very tough skin, so it requires some effort to slice. Once you cut it, scoop out the seeds and any stringy parts, and save those seeds to roast. The seeds are packed with nutrients which offer many other benefits, such as improving bladder and heart health. Here is a great site to give you information on cutting and cooking a pumpkin, as well as roasting the seeds.
If you have some leftover pumpkin, try this super simple and healthy recipe that everyone will enjoy.
Pumpkin Spice and Cranberry Energy Bites
- 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
- 1 tbsp. chia seeds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup ((can substitute with honey))
- 1/4 cup almond butter ((can substitute with natural peanut butter))
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries ((can substitute with chocolate chips if you'd prefer))
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 pinch salt
Place all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
Stir until the ingredients are combined. If the batter is too wet add more oats or flax seed. If it’s too dry then add more almond butter or pumpkin.
Place the batter in the refrigerator for a ½ hour or until it firms up. This makes it easier to roll the balls.
Roll into 20 balls. Place into an airtight container. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. Enjoy!
Tip: These energy bites can be made completely ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and in the freezer up to 3 months.