The great pumpkin

It turns out that Charlie Brown got it right after all: we really should be calling that familiar orange squash the “Great” pumpkin after all. For many of us, pumpkin serves merely as a filling for pie crust at Thanksgiving. But look beyond the holidays or Halloween, and you’ll discover that this unassuming winter vegetable can offer myriad contributions to your health all year round.

Pumpkin Is Rich in Carotenoids

Inflammation is a key risk factor in developing chronic diseases as we age: many chronic conditions, from arthritis heart disease are the consequence of inflammation in various parts of the body. Pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, an important group of antioxidants that are converted to Vitamin A in the body and act as powerful anti-inflammatories. These free radical fighters (the same health-promoting compounds found in carrots,  associated with eye health) also boost immune function. As a result, adding pumpkin to your soups, salads or side dishes is a tasty way to improve your immunity and help prevent various chronic conditions at the same time.

High Fiber, Low Fat Pumpkin Stabilizes Blood Sugar

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 Americans—almost 10% of the population–have diabetes, and the numbers continue to grow almost daily. It’s well known that a healthy diet can help to prevent the disease, and pumpkin fits in here, too.  A single cup of cooked pumpkin offers 7 grams of fiber (almost 30% of your RDA) and only 1 gram of fat (with no saturated fat). Consuming this orange powerhouse will help keep your “bad” cholesterol levels low and your blood sugar levels steady, in a healthy range.

Pumpkin Contains Key Vitamins and Minerals

Like many vegetables, pumpkin is a great source of major nutrients.  With only 82 calories in a one-cup serving, pumpkin provides more than 200% of your daily Vitamin A; one third of your Vitamin C; as well as manganese, potassium, iron, copper and magnesium. And let’s not forget the precious seeds inside: pumpkin seeds contain Omega 3 fatty acids and have even been shown to help prevent and treat parasites, according to Paul Pitchford in his book Healing with Whole Foods.

Yes, a well-carved pumpkin looks great on your front porch when you want to attract the neighborhood kids on October 31st.  But it’s so much more than that: this health-promoting veggie not only adds variety and flavor to your meals, but can contribute to your good health over the years as well.

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By: Ricki Heller

Ricki Heller is a whole foods chef, TV personality and author of the Canadian bestseller Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar (one of only three cookbooks endorsed on Ellen DeGeneres’ website) as well as three e-cookbooks. She has appeared on Canada AM, Breakfast Television and appears regularly to discuss healthy eating on Rogers’ Daytime and In the Know. She writes the popular food blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, where she chronicles her ongoing challenges with candida, offers entertaining anecdotes about life, shares sugar-free, vegan, whole-foods recipes and provides a platform for her two chatty lab-border collie cross dogs, Elsie and Chaser. She lives near Toronto with her husband and two “girls.”