Besides being a popular decoration for the fall season or the symbol of Halloween, pumpkins are a great source of nutrition, loaded with Vitamn A and fiber and low in calories. Pumpkins are a storehouse of vitamins, mineral and other healthy nutrients. Whether it is the pulp or the seeds, pumpkins are great for your health and can offer some incredible benefits. Forget the canned stuff; buying whole, local pumpkins is super easy, especially right now. Just check your local coop or farmer’s market.
Halloween, pumpkin style
First, things you should know about the orange, rotund vegetable:
Nutritional Composition of Pumpkins
High Carotenoids Content – Pumpkins owe their bright orange color to the high amount of carotenoids present in them. Carotenoids assist in staving off the free radicals in the body, and help in preventing premature aging, cardiovascular diseases and other infections. They are also high in Lutein & Zeaxanthin which protect the eyes against free radical damage and prevent formation of cataracts and degeneration of the eye tissues.
Protein – Pumpkin seeds (also known as Pepitas) are a rich source of protein. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains approx. 7 grams of protein. Their oil is high in phytosterols or plant-based fatty acids and their chemical composition is the same as cholesterol. Phytosterols can replace cholesterol in the body, and help in reducing the blood cholesterol levels.
Essential Fatty Acids – Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of essential fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits. From providing protection against serious health diseases such as high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer to promoting healthy skin and improving brain power, essential fatty acids present in pumpkin oil offer several health benefits.
Vitamin A – Pumpkin is a rich source of Vitamin A. Regular consumption of pumpkin (both seeds and flesh) can promote the health of your eyes and boost your immune system remarkably.
Vitamin C - Vitamin C helps fight free radicals, improves immunity and promotes the production of collagen. The high Vitamin C content in pumpkins also offers protection against various forms of cancer.
Magnesium - Both the pulp and seeds of pumpkin are rich in magnesium, which is an important mineral required for various biological functions. Magnesium is also required for the maintenance bones and teeth.
Potassium & Zinc – Pumpkin is loaded with potassium and Zinc. Studies show that eating a potassium-rich diet can prevent onset of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. Zinc is important for providing bone density support for people at risk for osteoporosis. It boosts the immune system and promotes reproductive health.
Fiber – Pumpkin flesh is very low in calories and contains abundant quantities of extremely good dietary fiber. It is extremely effective for treating gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation, indigestion, etc. The high amount of fiber also helps in lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood and in regulating the blood sugar levels.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Flesh and Seeds
Prostate Cancer – The protective compounds present within the pumpkin seeds, called phytosterols can lower the risk of prostate cancer. These work by shrinking the prostate and stimulating the secretion of chemicals that protect against the transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High DHT levels can cause enlargement of the prostate glands.
Anti-Inflammatory Effect – The Beta carotene present in pumpkin seeds and flesh has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of pumpkin can protect against joint inflammation and arthritis. Pumpkins have been known to provide relief from inflammation quickly, without the harmful side-effects of anti-inflammatory medicines.
Great on your skin – The high amount of Vitamin A, C and E as well as Zinc present in pumpkin, make it a great choice for those who want a healthy and glowing skin. Have a cup of pumpkin seeds per day to prevent appearance of wrinkles and to keep your skin hydrated and nourished.
Prevents Kidney Stones – Have 5 to 10 grams of pumpkin seeds every day. This stimulates the kidneys and prevents the formation of calcium oxalate stones.
Depression – Pumpkin flesh contains L-tryptophan, a chemical compound that triggers feelings of well-being and happiness. Having pumpkin as a part of your daily diet can keep your spirits high and prevent depression.
Treatment of Parasites – In various cultures especially China, pumpkins are used to treat infections caused by tapeworms and other parasites.
Diuretics – Pumpkins are natural diuretics. These help in flushing out the toxins and unwanted waste material from the body, leaving you refreshed and healthy.
With so many health benefits, it is no wonder that pumpkin is an important part of the list of super foods. Next time you are carving a pumpkin, do not throw away the pulp or the seeds – instead boil, bake or cook them in any form you like. Besides hanging out on your porch bathed in candle lights, keep an extra few in the pantry for whipping up one of these quick, homemade healthy pumpkin recipes (from Cooking Light magazine).
Country Sun Farms by Stillwater, MN
For 18 servings
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
- 1/3 cup fat-free milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg white
- Cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.
Combine pumpkin and next 6 ingredients (pumpkin through egg white); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon the batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.
Combine 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and brown sugar; sprinkle over muffins.
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack. Yield: 18 servings (serving size: 1 muffin).
CALORIES 164 (19% from fat): FAT 3.5g (satfat 0.6g, monofat 0.8g, polyfat 1.9g); PROTEIN 3.5g; CARBOHYDRATES 29.7g; FIBER 1g; cholesterol 12mg; IRON 1.2mg; SODIUM 269mg; CALCIUM 78mg.
For 6 Servings
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 wonton wrappers
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Chopped parsley
Combine pumpkin, Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Spoon about 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into center of each wonton wrapper. Moisten edges of dough with water; bring 2 opposite sides together to form a triangle, pinching edges to seal. Place ravioli into a large saucepan of boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt; cook 7 minutes and drain in a colander. Place chicken broth and butter in pan; bring to a boil. Add ravioli, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 4 ravioli).
CALORIES 162g; FAT 5g (satfat 4g, monofat 1g, polyfat 0g); PROTEIN 6g; FIBER 2g; CHOLESTEROL 17mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 505mg; CALCIUM 102mg.
Pumpkin Soup Recipe (from Vegetarian.com)
- 1 tablespoon margarine
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 16 oz can of pumpkin puree
- 1 1/3 cups vegetable broth or No Chicken broth
- 3 cups soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk or hemp milk
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the margarine for 3-5 minutes, until onion turns clear. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy! Makes 4 servings of vegetarian pumpkin soup.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 190, Calories from Fat: 63
% Daily Value
Total Fat: 7.0g, 11%
Saturated Fat: 1.2g, 6%
Cholesterol: 0mg, 0%
Sodium: 388mg, 16%
Total Carbohydrates: 24.3g, 8%
Dietary Fiber: 4.9g, 20%
Vitamin A 356%, Vitamin C 11%, Calcium 9%, Iron 17%
Vegan Pumpkin Soup