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Pumpkins Carve Out a Healthy Treat

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health benefits of pumpkinsThis fall, pumpkins are standing sentry at markets and grocery stores all across the country. You might  even have one on your porch!  Why not take advantage of this gorgeous orange super food and add it to your diet while it’s in season?  You’ll find nutritional benefits galore in the festive fruit.

Pumpkin Seeds: Packed with Potential

Pumpkin seeds are very high in protein so they make an ideal addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds contains about 10 grams of protein and only 180 calories. They also contain zinc, essential fatty acids, magnesium, iron, fiber and L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is a known mood-booster – no wonder pumpkins are always grinning!

Men especially benefit from eating pumpkin seeds because the high zinc levels are shown to protect the prostate. For the best nutritional value, eat them raw as opposed to roasted.

Add Pumpkin Seeds to Your Daily Diet

  • Sprinkle seeds on top of salads and steamed or roasted vegetables to add some crunch
  • Add pumpkin seeds to granola or trail mix

Pumpkin Flesh

Pumpkin flesh, loaded with fiber, zinc and potassium, is  also high in the antioxidant beta carotene that helps to neutralize free radicals.

Sure, you’ll see lots of pumpkin pies, muffins and breads this November, but there are healthier ways to enjoy this fall vegetable. When you decide to cook pumpkin flesh, look for pie pumpkins in your grocery store.  Pie pumpkins are smaller than the pumpkins you’ll see for carving and decoration and their flesh is much more tender which makes for a better eating option.

  • Make a soul-warming pot of pumpkin soup. You’ll find a lot of recipes for pumpkin soup with dairy added, but try this vegan version with coconut milk.  The added cumin, ginger and curry give this soup some spice to warm you up on a chilly fall day.
  • Serve a side of pumpkin with dinner. Roasted pumpkin is a wonderful accompaniment to any meal.  Toss peeled and diced pumpkin with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for  about 20 minutes or until tender.  Have leftovers?  Add leftover roasted pumpkin to a vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Using a hand blender, blend until smooth and you’ll have a simple, delicious soup.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

The next time you are in a gourmet or organic market, buy a bottle pumpkin seed oil.  It is high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) which support our cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.  This is the kind of oil you want to drizzle on your foods – to protect the nutritional value and to enjoy the nutty flavor of it.

So the next time you pass a pumpkin up in the grocery store, make sure you turn around and add it to your cart.  You won’t regret enjoying the wonderful health benefits and flavors of this ubiquitous fall vegetable.

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