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Pumpkin Nutrition and Health Benefits of Pumpkin
The star of the fall food show, pumpkin, is not only fun to carve and decorate, but makes amazing things happen inside your body as well.
Beta carotene is what gives pumpkin flesh its bright orange color, and the deeper the orange, the more beta carotene in the pumpkin.
Beta carotene works as an antioxidant for free radicals in your body, so it flushes the bad out and allows the good to soak in. Studies show that eating a diet high in beta carotene can reduce the risk for developing prostate (and other) cancer.
These anti-oxidant carotenoids convert to vitamin A in your body and it helps to protect against skin damage, improve your vision, and make sure that your immune system is functioning properly. It has also been studied for its ability to prevent heart disease.
Pumpkin is also packed with fiber, which helps digestion, reduces your bad cholesterol, helps you to lose weight, protects against heart disease, and for lack of a better term, keeps you regular.
It’s also high in vitamin C and E. Vitamin C also helps prevent heart disease, regulates cholesterol, improves the immune system, helps the development of collagen, and reduces high blood pressure. Vitamin E protects the skin against sun damage.
Additionally, the magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B5 helps to balance fluid retention in the body, helps keep your bones and teeth strong, balances hormone levels, lowers the risk for hypertension, and regulates stress.
To summarize, eating pumpkin is great for your skin, your heart, your bones and teeth, your kidneys, and just about every other organ in your body, so eat plenty of it, especially when it's in season.
The best tasting pumpkins are the smaller "pie" pumpkins, and anything you can buy locally. Pie pumpkins are great for roasting and pureeing for pies, cookies, breads, and using in savory dishes as well.
We love to go straight to the pumpkin patch to pick our own pie pumpkins, but you can buy them at most grocery stores during the fall. It's always best to look for squash that are heavy for their size, and without any soft spot or obvious bruises.
In an interesting twist, you actually get more health benefits of pumpkin nutrition when you cook them, so I like to roast them and bring out the flavors.
Before you roast the whole pumpkin, scoop out all the seeds and put them on a cookie sheet with your favorite seasonings and roast them separately. The health benefits of pumpkin seeds include tons of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
To roast for the optimal pumpkin nutrition, cut the pumpkin in half and put each half, cut side up, on a cookie sheet. Roast for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the size), until the flesh starts to easily pull away from the skin. Then you can scoop it out and puree the final product to give it a nice texture so it's ready to be used in your pumpkin pie recipes. I freeze the pumpkin puree for up to six months and just defrost it when I'm ready to use it.