Pumpkin, It's Not Just For Thanksgiving Anymore

Pumpkin is more than just for pie and Halloween carving! It is an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber and many other vitamins and minerals.

I went for a walk on the trails near my house the other day and noticed something was a little different than usual. There was a slight chill in the air that evening. I looked up at the tall walnut trees above the path and saw that the leaves were beginning to turn brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange, and the smell of burning leaves was drifting through the air.

I realized suddenly, autumn is upon us. I love Fall in the Midwest - visiting the apple orchard, carving pumpkins, decorating for Halloween - I love it all. My husband and I are planning a move out West soon and I know this is the time of year that I will miss most about being away from Michigan. However, there is one particular part of Fall that I am excited about, which I do not have to leave behind, and that is the fabulous Autumn flavors. In particular, pumpkin. And I am not just talking pumpkin pie here, my friends. So in honor of the Autumn yummies that I so much adore, let’s take a moment to celebrate all things pumpkin. You may be surprised at the wealth of health benefits that this familiar gourd has to offer. Antioxidants, Fiber, and More Pumpkin is very high in antioxidants, specifically carotenoids, which are what gives it the vibrant orange color. Carotenoids help to neutralize free radicals, the molecules that attack cell membranes, leaving the cells vulnerable to damage. Beta-carotene, the carotenoid that you are probably most acquainted with, helps to preserve the body’s mucous membranes and the lining of our lungs. In the body it is converted to vitamin A, an essential nutrient. Two other examples are lutein and zeaxanthin, which round up free radicals specifically in the lens of the eye, strengthening it, and protecting against cataracts and macular degeneration. Current research indicates that carotenoids may help reduce serious infections in individuals with a weakened immune system, by boosting their white blood cell count. Pumpkin is also rich in vitamins C, K, and E, potassium, which is important for heart health, zinc, which helps to prevent osteoporosis, and fiber. 1 cup of canned pumpkin contains only 83 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, and 504 milligrams of potassium. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are high in protein, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, copper, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Studies have shown that they promote overall prostate health, improve bladder function, and are a natural anti-inflammatory. 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds contain 92% of your daily value of magnesium and 3 grams of fiber. How To Bake Pumpkin Seeds Heat oven to 350° F. Clean the pulp off of the seeds and dry them thoroughly. Add salt, garlic powder, chili powder, or whatever seasonings you prefer. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread seeds out in one layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until seeds begin to color and smell fragrant. Stir once, halfway through. Allow to cool and store in airtight container. Let’s Get Baking So now that you know all the benefits that pumpkin has to offer, I hope you feel inspired to pick up a few cans of pumpkin puree on your next trip to the grocery store. And when you are carving those pumpkins in a few weeks, don’t throw out those seeds! Get in your kitchen and start baking some pumpkin goodies of your own so that you too can reap the benefits of this autumn nutritional gold-mine.
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