By Kate Robitello
With the combination of crisp mornings, canned pumpkin displays, and coffeehouses touting their latest pumpkin-spiced latte, fall is officially here. Fall need not, however, be the only time to consume pumpkin.
This bright-colored squash is loaded with “pumpkin power” that may actually benefit your health in significant ways. The uniquely delicious taste is just a bonus. Here are four health benefits that can be gained with regular pumpkin (and pumpkin seed) consumption:
With the change of the seasons comes the common cold. Lots of water, sleep, and a healthy diet have the ability to prevent our bodies from being quite as susceptible to bacterial infections. Pumpkin in particular is full of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, which according to the National Cancer Institute, also plays a role in cancer prevention.
Ah, inflammation—the common denominator in the majority of degenerative illnesses and even less obvious issues, like acne. We need some inflammation in our body, as it helps fight off certain bacteria and viruses that harm the body. Chronic inflammation, however, is not a good thing. It essentially attacks healthy tissues as our cells work in overdrive to fight off intruders, also known as antigens. Our healthy tissues are caught in the crossfire, if you will, and are left damaged. Lifestyle factors like smoking, not getting enough sleep, following an acid-forming diet, and stress can (and probably will) lead to chronic inflammation. Regular consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, like pumpkin, acts as a means of creating an environment in our body that is Zen.
The power of a seed
Plucking the seeds out of your Jack o’lantern goop is part of the fun! Here are a few more reasons why your effort to recover the pumpkin seeds is nothing short of a fabulous. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, a mineral that plays a vital role in cell division, growth, immune function, fertility, vision, and healthy hair, skin, and nails. They also contain a fair amount of magnesium, another mineral that is essential for tooth and bone health, flexibility, improved mood, energy, and hydration. Other benefits of pumpkin seeds include prevention of osteoporosis and depression, prostate health, improved sleep quality, and reduction of inflammation.
The food of athletes
If you’re not bananas about bananas, then you might want to consider something more pumpkin-y to follow hikes. One cup of canned pumpkin contains approximately 15 percent of your daily potassium requirements. Potassium is responsible for balancing sodium levels and acid balance in the tissues as well as the blood. It also assists in normal growth and development and plays a role in the metabolism of glucose and in protein synthesis. Needless to say, we need it; the daily requirement for an adult is around 4,700 milliYgrams per day!
Your pumpkin-fix is not only delightful to your taste buds, but to your overall level of vitality—and that’s a good reason to treat yourself to a pumpkin muffin.
Kate Robitello is a Plant Based Nutritionist (CPBN) and Lifestylist.