Fall has officially begun as of September 22nd; however, at least here in Indiana the weather is still behaving much like summer. Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year. The cooler weather, crisp breezes, cute clothes, warm drinks and fun activities like apple picking, trick or treating and Thanksgiving have me all excited. This is also the time of year that pumpkins have exploded onto the food scene. You can find everything pumpkin flavored now ... from your coffee to your cereal. Have you ever wondered, besides the delicious flavor of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, is there a health benefit to pumpkin?
The beauty of the pumpkin is that it is a simple food item. It doesn't have an overly strong flavor so using spices blends can create delicious and unique dishes quite easily. You can make pumpkin sweet or savory and there are tons of recipes online that can help you incorporate this festive gourd into your weekly menu.
- Helps with your eyesight. Pumpkin contains over 200% of your daily value of Vitamin A and this fat-soluble vitamin is important to help your eyes work appropriately. They contain beta-carotene which is a carotenoid - this creates the orange color and produces Vitamin A in the body.
- Helps with meeting weight loss goals. Pumpkins contain a lot of fiber and this helps you to feel full and eat less with meals. There are 3 grams of fiber found in 1 cup of pumpkin puree for only 49 calories. Produce tends to be high in fiber and that is helpful in weight management.
- Heart healthy seeds. The pumpkin seeds contain heart healthy fats, which can be helpful reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. These seeds do contain more calories compared with the puree due this fat, but in small amounts this can easily fit into a healthy diet.
- Improve your mood. Besides containing healthy fat, these pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan. This amino acid breaks down to another amino acid product called, serotonin, which is helpful for sleeping and this can help your mood. This can help you rest and taking that time for you, can help to improve your outlook on life.
- Loaded up with potassium. There is a lot of potassium found in 1 cup of pumpkin puree (564mg) and this is more than what you would find in a banana. This is an electrolyte that your body replaces after working out to help keep your hydration status in balance and feeling good. If you have a tough work out in the heat and sweat a lot, consider some pumpkin puree to help replenish your potassium stores.
- Boost your immune system. There are lots of vitamins and minerals found in pumpkin, another vitamin is Vitamin C that is found in high quantities. This Vitamin C is helpful in boosting your immune system and helping your body ward off disease. One cup of cooked pumpkin puree contains 11mg of Vitamin C or 20% of your daily value (if you are a woman).
- Skin protection. The carotenoids that we mentioned earlier, help to keep your skin healthy, smooth and strong. This is a great added bonus as we head into the fall and drier weather and we all want to protect our skin from the elements.
So as you reach for your pumpkin flavored whatever ... consider picking up some pumpkin puree and using it in a new recipe this week. Unfortunately all of these health benefits can only be achieved through consuming the pumpkin puree itself and just the pumpkin flavoring that is often added to food items. Go ahead and Google/Pinterest some pumpkin recipes and try to incorporate some of this amazing fall superfood into your next meal!