Pumpkins are desperately in need of a brand overhaul. Too many people don’t see the benefits of pumpkin beyond Halloween décor, or they limit their consumption to the perfunctory pumpkin pie served at Thanksgiving. In fact, pumpkins are one of the most nutrient dense, low-calorie foods you can eat, full of fiber, beta carotene, potassium and a bevy of other bennies. So instead of just carving up that pumpkin, give it all due respect.
Don’t let this pumpkin season pass you by without exploring creative ways of incorporating it into your diet. To get the most of its protective benefits, challenge yourself to eat a helping of pumpkin, squash, or seeds every other day. The effort will be paid back in spades: Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, their flesh and seeds can make you look younger, see better, live longer and even have a better sex life.
Pumpkin is —surprise!—a godsend for your skin. The flesh is chockfull of vitamins A and C, anti-aging nutrients that are essential for producing collagen—a key ingredient for smooth, youthful-looking skin.
Carotenoids, the compounds responsible for pumpkins’ deep orange color, are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Among its many functions, vitamin A provides key peeper protection by helping the retina absorb and process light. Just one cup of pumpkin puree lets the eyes have it: It contains over 200 percent of most people’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A.
Pumpkin seeds are one of nature’s best libido boosters, providing a good dose of zinc (one-quarter cup contains almost 23 percent of recommended daily allowance). Zinc plays a role in both men’s and women’s sexual health, including fertility, hormone regulation, and (for men) sex drive.
4. Heart health
The fiber, potassium and vitamin C content in pumpkin help support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels. The seeds, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers, also offer a wellspring of nutrients that also promote cholesterol and heart health.
Many men over 50 struggle with an enlarged prostate. Pumpkin seeds are laden with protective compounds known as phytosterols, which research suggests is linked to protecting the prostate gland.
Motivated to get chunkin’ by pumpkins’ resume of health bennies? Here are some creative ways to go from gourd to gut.
Use homemade pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin in place of oil or butter in any baking recipe.
Stir pumpkin puree into soup, stew, sauces or chili to pump up nutritional content.
Add pumpkin puree to oatmeal or yogurt.
Add roasted pumpkin seeds to create a satisfying crunch on top of sautéed vegetables.
Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of salads.
Add chopped pumpkin seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal.
Add raw pumpkin seeds to practically any cookie recipe.
Add some ground pumpkin seeds to homemade burgers, whether vegan, beef, turkey, chicken or salmon.