The Benefits of Pumpkin
Most of us think of pumpkins as those cool orange orbs that we carve every year at Halloween time to decorate our porches, but did you know pumpkin is also a nutritional powerhouse? While we may delight in carving wickedly frightful faces into them, the extent most people eat pumpkin may be Grandma's famous Pumpkin Pie. Ironically, pumpkin is one of the most nutritionally dense fruits there is. Yes, it's a fruit. A member of the gourd family, akin to the squash, to be exact.
Pumpkin is high in beta-carotene. People with higher blood levels of beta-carotene have a significantly reduced risk of falling victim to many chronic illnesses, including high cholesterol and diabetes. Pumpkin is extremely high in fiber, and boasts an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients such as magnesium, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and potassium.
In addition to the aforementioned nutrients, perhaps the most important pumpkin contains are carotenoids. Carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds that are found in red, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. These carotenoids are antioxidants that are important in aid in slowing the aging process as well as protecting the skin and eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. Another plus are their ability to prevent cancer of the colon, skin and breast.
Most of us are familiar with beta-carotene, but have probably never heard of alpha-carotene. High concentration of alpha-carotene is perhaps what makes the pumpkin such a nutritional super-star. This is because alpha-carotenes have been proven to reduce the effects of aging on the body as a whole. Alpha-carotenes also help prevent cataracts, macular degeneration and cardiovascular disease.
Since pumpkin is unfamiliar to most of us in terms of eating it unless in pie, how do we add it effectively to our diets? For starters, you can add canned pumpkin to soups as a base. One half cup serving of pumpkin yields 5 whopping grams of fiber! You can also bake it, and then cube it to make a wonderful addition to soups or casseroles. It's low in calories and quite filling.
When cooking a pumpkin, be sure not to throw out the seeds. Pumpkin seeds serve as a wonderful alternative to sunflower seeds and can be added to salads or enjoyed just by themselves. How do you prepare them? After thoroughly washing the seeds, coat them in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes or so. Season them with whatever else you may like and store for a healthy snack high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. They are also high in zinc, iron and Vitamin E.
Ounce for ounce, pumpkin packs a nutritional wallop, perhaps more so than any other. Even if you only get your pumpkin from a pie, you are still better off for eating it. Why not enjoy the many benefits during the latter half of the year instead of just on holidays? You can enjoy the seeds year round and reap benefits from those as well. Next time you make a hearty winter soup, add a can of pumpkin to the base to make a tasty and highly nutritious meal. Your eyes will thank you.
Christian Aguirre is a ' Emeryville Personal Trainer ' and has been practicing fitness for over 10 years. Over the years Christian has developed a cutting edge weight loss program that involves ' Kettlebell Training 'that has been proven to increase metabolism and weight loss.
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