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After you have finished carving up the pumpkin for Halloween fun with the family, you might want to chop up another one to create some delicious and nutritious meals and snacks. And don't throw away the pumpkin seeds! These orange plants are a lot more than just a jack-o'-lantern nightlight for trick-or-treaters. They pack a nutrient-rich punch.
The orange color of a pumpkin can give us a good clue into its nutritional value which get its color from carotenoids. Carotenoids may help reduce the risk of getting certain cancers and eye disease. The major carotenoid in pumpkin is beta-carotene, with lesser amounts of lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene and cis-beta-carotene.Beta-carotene may offer protection against heart disease, contribute to a strong immune system, reduce inflammation and help sooth arthritis pain, and help prevent sunburn when taken alone or with other antioxidants. Once ingested, the beta-carotene antioxidant from pumpkin is converted to vitamin A before it can be utilized by the body. The human body gets vitamin A through retinoids (found in animal foods) and carotenoids (found in plant foods, like pumpkin).
Improves Eye Health
You were probably taught that carrots are good for the eyes. Well, they are! And so are pumpkins and other beta-carotene rich plants. Pumpkin has the added benefit of containing the antioxidants vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, copper, and vitamin E which in combination may help decrease a person's risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Pumpkin is also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin which help filter out harmful, high-energy wavelengths of light.
Zinc and Magnesium-Rich Seeds
If it’s zinc you’re looking for, then grab a handful of boiled, raw, or baked pumpkin seeds. One cup provides almost half the recommended daily allowance and is one of the best plant sources of zinc. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 11 mg/day of zinc for men and 8 mg/day for women.?This mineral is beneficial for eye health, immune function, and preventing certain diseases like sickle cell anemia and Wilson’s disease.
Pumpkin seeds are also exceptionally high in magnesium. Half a cup of toasted pumpkin seeds has 92 percent of your daily value of magnesium. Magnesium helps with energy production, cell growth, blood pressure, bone health and the functioning of the heart, nerves, and muscles.
Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that works as a mood stabilizer, can help control sleep cycles, and maintains the digestive, skin, and nervous system. Lower concentrations of tryptophan have been associated with insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
If you don’t notice a difference in your mood or sleep after eating roasted pumpkin seeds, they still provide a number of health benefits – and taste great! One ounce of pumpkin seeds is packed with protein, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Studies have suggested that consuming pumpkin seeds may aid in blocking the enlargement of the prostate gland, lowering the risk of bladder stones, and reducing certain types of cancers.
Aids in Weight Loss
Pumpkins are high in fiber, full of potassium, and low in calories. Try pumpkin soup, pumpkin hummus, or roasted pumpkin dishes to aid in weight loss and help lower blood pressure.?You may also substitute pumpkin puree for oil in baked goods to reduce their calories and fat.
If you don’t have access to fresh pumpkin, pure canned pumpkin can be a healthy alternative, but read the label to make sure you are not buying pumpkin pie filling that is full of sugars and syrups.
Please note: Pumpkin is mildly diuretic and could be a problem for people who take certain medications. Always talk to your doctor about your diet and possible health risks associated with certain foods and vitamins.
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Last Revised 11/15/2017