The slimy innards and slippery seeds that you pull from inside the great gourd may be the perfect antidote to Halloween candy you’re likely to indulge in. Rather than wrapping the goop up in a newspaper and tossing it, consider prolonging the seasonal fun and pumping up your nutritional intake by eating the pulp and seeds.
The many healthy properties of pumpkins have earned them a reputation as a “Super Food,” according to Katie Ross, a registered dietitian at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital.
“Pumpkins don’t just comfort our taste buds, they also comfort and heal our bodies.” Ross said. “Pumpkins protect our cardiovascular health with nutrients like potassium, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, they strengthen our immune systems with a power punch of vitamin C, and they fight cancer with antioxidants like vitamin E.”
An ounce of pumpkin seeds contains about 7 grams of protein along with oils that can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and essential fatty acids that protect against high blood pressure and other serious health problems.
Both the flesh and the seeds contain vitamin A to promote healthy eyes and immune systems and magnesium which is vital for maintaining the bones and teeth.
Pumpkins also can help you look and feel your best. The bright orange hue of pumpkins is evidence that they’re loaded with carotenoids and vitamin C which promote eye health and aid in the production of collagen. The vitamins A, C, and E found in pumpkin foster healthy skin. It also contains the chemical L-tryptophan which can elevate moods.
For those watching their waistlines, pumpkin can be a treat that won’t derail the diet. But the pumpkin-flavored drink at your neighborhood coffee shop, containing far more whole milk and whipped cream than pumpkin, might not be the wisest choice.
“Pumpkin flesh is very low in calories and has a lot of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and helps you to feel fuller for longer,” Ross said. “The key is to be aware of the amounts of fat or sugar that you are adding to your pumpkin culinary creation so that you can enjoy a tasty and healthy treat. Skim or lowfat milk, Splenda, or greek yogurt can all be added along with pumpkin to recipes.”
Try eating toasted pumpkin seeds on their own or mixing them into salads or trail mix. Create healthier pumpkin baked goods by incorporating some whole wheat flour into them and using unsweetened apple sauce or a mashed banana in place of some of the oil or butter in your recipes. Stir pumpkin into your favorite pancake batter or whip pumpkin, fat free milk, frozen vanilla yogurt and cinnamon into a smoothie.
For more information, contact:
The West Penn Allegheny Health System