Head to the Pumpkin Patch for some Seasonal Health!
We’ve all seen the memes making fun of the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes. There seems to be a bit of a love-hate of everything pumpkin in the world. (Not many aisle-crossers here).
That said, as a nutritionist, I’ve got to shout out the health benefits of pumpkins (not the spiced lattes that pack 380 calories and way too much sugar in its 16 oz. cup, but the real-deal pumpkin). Pumpkins and squash, in general, are packed with nutrition.
It’s Halloween in a week (where many pumpkins meet their destiny as Jack-o-Lanterns) and we’re just 5 weeks away from Thanksgiving. Since we’ve got pumpkin on the mind, let’s talk pumpkin nutrition.
- Fiber up. On average, Americans need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day, but we’re only eating 13 grams. Pumpkin is a rich source of soluble fiber, which helps with digestion and reducing the chance of constipation, both of which improve colorectal health. It’s also a heart-healthy choice.
- See well with the carotenoid antioxidants found in pumpkin. Carotenoid antioxidants are great for eye health and keep you young inside-out.
- Look good! The antioxidants and vitamin C found in pumpkin help your skin glow. (You can’t imagine how hard it is to refrain from making a cheesy Jack-o-Lantern reference here. Glow. Okay. Never mind). Anyway, not only will it keep your skin looking healthier, lutein, zeaxathin, and vitamin E in pumpkin help protect us against UV Rays. So this magical orange winter squash keeps us from becoming orange. (The puns must stop!)
- Keep the winter bugs away. The body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A can strengthen the immune system and fight off infections. In winter, we’re more prone to bugs because we’re often stuck in confined spaces with heating systems that recirculate the air. Add a drop in vitamin D (not enough sun!), and our bodies need to boost defenses during the long winter months.
- Don’t throw out the seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds (for salads or snacks or on top of your favorite pumpkin soup), are great for gut health. They are packed with zinc (great for the immune system) and phytosterols (free-radical scavenging anti-oxidants). So when you’ve scraped out your Jack-o-Lantern, throw the seeds in the oven with a little sea salt and pepper.
Some of my favorite winter recipes include pumpkin! Like butternut squash with pumpkin seeds and cranberries, pumpkin pancakes, oatmeal, and bran muffins to tempt the family out of bed on cold winter mornings, or keep it simple. Roast pumpkin in the oven and scoop it out with a spoon. Drizzle with honey to calm your sweet tooth or make it spicy with chile peppers.
However you choose to dish it out, keep pumpkin on the mind this holiday season. It’s for more than Jack-o-Lanterns and pies. (Though they’re fabulous as well.)