Hot Flash: The Great Pumpkin Rises For Your Health

‘Tis the season for pumpkins. We’ve carved them for Halloween, baked the seeds, and used them decoratively around the house. Thanksgiving is synonymous with pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and in my house, a sumptuous pumpkin soup topped with sweet crab meat and truffle oil. Divine!

Who knew how good they are for you? According to Web MD, just like their orange cousins, the carrot and the sweet potato, pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene. Your body changes this antioxidant to vitamin A. You need vitamin A to see, ward off germs. It also helps your heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs stay healthy. 

Check out these other benefits. I wonder how many pieces of pumpkin pie, bread and soup it will take to move the health needle for me? 

One cup of pumpkin can give you 200 percent of your recommended daily vitamin A intake. If you get it, your eyes will thank you. Vitamin A helps you have healthy eyes and see more clearly, especially in low-light conditions. Maybe three pieces of pie a week with help with this. 

Pumpkin’s vitamin A kick brings another biggie: a lowered risk of certain kinds of cancer, like lung or prostate cancer. Studies show this benefit comes only when you eat foods with vitamin A. You don’t get the same protection from vitamin A supplements alone. Toss the supplements! Eat more pumpkin! My new mantra.

In addition to beta-carotene, pumpkins offer vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and folate — all of which strengthen your immune system. More pumpkin in your diet can help your immune cells work better to ward off germs and speed healing when you get a wound. Yum! Pumpkin pie to the rescue!

Pumpkin’s rich orange color is also a sign it’s packed with potassium. This is crucial for lowering blood pressure. Unsalted pumpkin seeds are also crammed with minerals and plant sterols that raise LDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind) and help keep blood pressure numbers down, too.

When I was a little girl, my dad always carved the pumpkins and made the pumpkin seeds. It’s still something I do today. The baked seeds are a great, healthy snack. 

P.S.: Pumpkin seeds have tryptophan, an amino acid that helps make a chemical called serotonin. In addition to making you feel good, serotonin is also a key player in promoting good sleep. Forget about the sleeping pills; pop a few pumpkin seeds into your mouth before bed. Nighty-night!

More good news about pumpkins’ potassium power: Studies show that higher potassium levels can lower your risk of stroke, kidney stones, and type 2 diabetes. Another bonus: Potassium may also increase bone mineral density, boosting your bone health. This is great news for women over 50. Including me.

Pumpkins are high in fiber and low in calories. That means they make you feel full without adding to your overall food intake for the day. If you’re looking for a healthy way to fill up, nutrient-rich pumpkin is a good go-to choice. The fiber uptick in your diet promotes digestive health, too, so what goes in comes out on a regular basis, if you know what I mean. Love this one; perfect for those who are fighting tummy bloat. Including me.

The antioxidant power of beta-carotene in pumpkin works to combat the effects of aging on your skin. It also helps ease inflammation, which keeps your skin — and your body — calmer and happier. Who doesn’t want to keep their skin and body calmer and happier? Please pass the pumpkin pie!

Your odds of heart disease go down as your fiber intake goes up, and pumpkin is loaded with it. But it isn’t just the fiber that takes care of your ticker: The vitamin A and potassium you get when you add pumpkin to your diet also play a part in heart health. I can see it now: “The New Pumpkin Pulp Diet Packed with Potassium Keeps Heart Pumping!” Yeah yeah. You heard it here first, dear readers!

With all the goodness pumpkins offer, surely an extra-large pumpkin spice latte with a pumpkin muffin can’t hurt. But experts say hold your horses. The best way to get pumpkin’s health benefits is to avoid the sugar and processing of baked goods or pumpkin flavor. 

What?! They say opt for more wholesome choices, like roasted pumpkin, pumpkin puree, pumpkin hummus, or pumpkin soup. Oh crap! No pumpkin pie for me. I knew it was too good to be true. Oh well. I guess I’ll settle for more of the pumpkin soup topped with sweet crab and truffle oil. Bon appetite!

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