HEALTH ALERT: Pumpkin is not just a decorative gourd. In fact, it’s one of the most nutritious, all-natural, high in dietary fiber foods known to man. And yes, it’s a fruit not a vegetable. (Think melons and cantaloupes.) Pumpkin is loaded with 8 powerful nutrients:
- pantothenic acid
- vitamin C
- vitamin E
- dietary fiber
- Alpha carotene
The last two items on our list stand out. Beta- and Alpha-carotene are nutrients critical to your body’s creation of vitamin A. They’re actually known as “pro-vitamin A” molecules, and because they’re so highly bio-available (that’s science jargon for “easy for our bodies to use”), a small amount of pumpkin goes a long way. A single cup of pumpkin puree contains more then 200% of the SuperFoodsRx recommended daily intake of Alpha-carotene and 100% of our daily dietary goal for Beta-carotene intake.
Carotenoids, like a lot of the nutrients scientists now know are so good for us, are actually pigments. They give pumpkins their distinctive orange and yellow color. Population groups with regular diets rich in carotenoids have much lower rates of all kinds of diseases including colon cancer, cervical cancer, and skin cancer.
In the famous Nurses’ Health Study, which has been tracking the health habits of more than 100,000 nurses for decades, participants with the highest concentrations of carotenoids in their diets had the lowest risk of developing breast cancer. In that same study (and in hundreds of subsequent studies) the connection between low rates of cancer and carotenoid intake always show better results when several different types of carotenoids are part of a regular diet.
It’s almost universally true: Combining healthful foods and nutrients in our regular diet gives the best protection from disease. The benefits of food synergies are real.
But what about pumpkin seeds — a popular snack in the fall when families are decorating their houses with pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns?
While pumpkin seeds aren’t loaded with carotenoids like the juicy yellow meat of the pumpkin, they are rich in important dietary minerals magnesium, iron, and zinc and a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. And you don’t have to wait for the fall to enjoy them — they’re in practically every market and convenience store in the country. Fresh raw pumpkin seeds, scooped out of the pumpkin you carved for Halloween and rinsed, dried and roasted on a cookie sheet are better yet. (Just 15 to 20 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees does the trick.)
Canned pumpkin puree (not canned pumpkin pie filling) has a higher nutritional density than fresh pumpkin. It’s been cooked down to reduce the water content and concentrate the carotenoids. A cup of canned pumpkin puree has more then 300% of our recommended daily intake of alpha-and beta-carotene.
Use canned pumpkin in delicious, low calorie, nutritious, easy-to-make pumpkin recipes like the SuperFoodsRx Pumpkin Custard.