Pumpkin, More Than Just Pie

Since holiday season has snuck up on us once again, and Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I️ decided to hop on that pumpkin bandwagon (for the first time) and cooked up a few recipes.

It never fails, every year we are totally obsessed with pumpkin everything. We want to wear pumpkin necklaces (maybe), eat pumpkin pie (definitely) and drink pumpkin spice lattes, who’s over it ?

What I want to do is get down to the nitty gritty with pumpkin here and really evaluate the nutrition content of this wonderful seasonal goodie. Why are we so obsessed over it anyway?

Let’s begin with that bright orange color brought to you by beta carotene.

Beta carotene belongs to a class of phytonutrients called carotenoids which are found in foods like carrots , sweet potatoes, cod liver oil, and pumpkin. These carotenoids then convert into an active form of vitamin A in the body where it can have anti- inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. This is great because well who doesn’t want to help fight inflammation in the body and also, who really is getting enough antioxidant rich foods?

I thought so.

So yes, the holidays are upon us and this carotenoid- rich fruit has been glorified to the upmost power, added to casseroles and pies, combined into coffee and topped with sugar but the real deal pumpkin is actually a pretty healthy fall food… (When used health-fully).

A few quick and easy ways I’ve used my cans of pumpkin was to make a low sugar chocolate chip flax pumpkin banana loaf and my super delicious creamy pumpkin oats. There are still a few more ideas I have with the extra cans I have. Hopefully I come around to making them soon !

 

If  my little beta carotene discussion didn’t convince you, here are the top 5 health promoting benefits of pumpkin and the real reasons why we should be excited for pumpkin season:

  1. Prostate Health
    • Pumpkin seed oil is very beneficial for promoting healthy prostate size and structure. Research has concluded that it can be used as an effective alternative treatment option for men with BPH.
  2. Vibrant Skin
    • As a provitamin, consuming pumpkin supports our skin because the body converts this vitamin in to “retinoids” which can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles promote skin healing. Although studies have observed these results mainly with topically applied retinoids, consuming foods rich in carotenoids and Vitamin A can still be very helpful as a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to skin, immune, and even thyroid issues.
  3. Sharp Vision
    •  Consuming foods rich in carotenoids support the eye’s macula and the vitamin A helps maintain the health of the cornea in the eye. Without enough vitamin A our vision declines and we are at increased risk for night blindness. Who wants that?
  4. Fiber Rich

    • Cooking with pumpkin is a nice way to increase fiber intake which we are all seriously lacking. Remember that we need 25-38 grams of fiber per day for healthy glucose and gastrointestinal health to name a few. 1 cup of canned pumpkin has about 7 grams of fiber. Adding some pumpkin to oats in the morning, smoothie with flax, almond milk and cinnamon, or Saturday morning pancakes is a nice way to boost fiber intake and experiment with new recipes!
  5. Lignans 
    • Pumpkin seeds are chock-full of these plant polyphenols and dietary patterns highest in plant polyphenols containing lignans are associated with lower hormone-associated cancers and cardiovascular disease. Have your pumpkin loaf and eat the seeds too?

Written By: Sarah Allison RDN LD MBA

References:
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002400.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809240/
http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/ways-to-boost-fiber
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2602/2
https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/search/?query=dietary+fiber
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/lignans

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