To be honest, much as I love pumpkins – the word, the color, the shape, the smell – sometimes I’m a bit pumpkined-out long before Halloween.
That’s because the world turns into an everything-pumpkin feast of foods that were probably as shocked to be hitched up with this innocent fruit (last I heard) as it was with them. Pasta! Pancake mix! Popcorn! Oatmeal! Chips! And that’s not even counting ye olde Pumpkin Spice Latte.
All this to say that despite this, despite the orange-colored tinge in the grocery-store air, I am not giving up on pumpkin. That’s because, in its purest form, it really and truly is good for you. Such is the word from Sharon Cox, registered dietitian at Parkland Health & Hospital System, who shares these six pumpkin pluses:
It’s good for your heart. People with high-fiber diets have lower risk of heart disease than those with low-fiber diets. And guess what pumpkin has? Fiber! One cup has three grams. Not bad for 50 calories.
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It helps you see better. A cup of pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of good vision-promoting Vitamin A, which also slows the decline of retinal function.
It boosts weight loss. The fiber mentioned early helps keep you feeling full longer. That goes for the seeds, too; one ounce of those has five grams of dietary fiber, plus five of protein.
It can help you sleep better. Those seeds are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that may aid relaxation and sleep. Added bonus: Tryptophan may help your body make serontin, which is a mood-improving neurotransmitter.
It can help fight off certain cancers. Yes, that’s because of those pumpkin seeds again; specifically the plant sterols they contain.
All of which leads to …
It helps promote longer life. Thank you, alpha- and beta-carotene, nutrients that have been associated with longevity AND cancer prevention.
But again a reminder: You won’t get these benefits eating 100 pumpkin pancakes.
Says Parkland registered dietitian diabetes education coordinator Katherine Nashatker: “I would encourage pumpkin eaters to enjoy pumpkin in low-fat, low-sugar ways like roasting or steaming the vegetable, boiling and mashing it, as opposed to choosing high calorie, high sugar processed pumpkin products such as lattes, pies and casseroles.”