The vegetable most commonly associated with fall brings a smile to most faces in October. Cucurbits maxima from the Curcurbitaceae family (aka pumpkin from the squash family) is currently appearing in most Starbucks lattes and bakery shelf pies.
Aside from the delicious treats that signify the heart of autumn is upon us, pumpkin has many health benefit alongside it’s squash relatives.
1. Pumpkin contains a lot of Vitamin A
A 1 cup serving of pumpkin (or any type of squash) has double the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is known to play a role in vision, particularly night-time vision as well as protect the eyes from oxidation damage. It also plays a vital role in skin regeneration and is thought to slow down the aging effects on skin. Many skin lotions and therapies for acne and anti-aging include a form of Vitamin A.
Perhaps an even more important feature of Vitamin A is it’s anti-viral effect. In the case of a measles outbreak, it has been shown that children with low Vitamin A levels have a higher risk of contracting the virus. In fact, hospitals will treat children with high doses of Vitamin A upon diagnosis of measles. In an effort to reduce viral infections, eating Vitamin A rich foods from the squash family may benefit.
2. Potential weight loss support
Pumpkins and squashes are low-calorie, low carb options to replace starchy carbohydrates on your plates. A delicious way to replace noodles, potatoes and rice is by baking chunks of butternut squash in your choice of oil (coconut, avocado or olive oil) with some spices such as cumin, pepper, salt, paprika and garlic for about 45 minutes. To make it even easier, buy frozen chopped squash available at most grocery stores – even Costco on occasion. This versatile dish contains fibre, Vitamins A,C and E and easily satisfies the palate. Consider having taco night with a base of baked squash topped with all the taco toppings that you love.
3. Elevation of mood
Pumpkin seeds contain a higher amount of the amino acid tryptophan. In the body, tryptophan is converted into serotonin – our “feel good” neurotransmitter. Research suggests that lower levels of serotonin may be one of the causes of depression and that improving these levels can elevate moods as well as improve sleep and decrease cravings.
4. Replenish electrolytes
Pumpkins have a high amount of the mineral potassium. Post work-out it’s important to restore the body’s electrolytes that are lost through sweat and potassium is one of them. 1 cup of cooked pumpkin has 20% more potassium than the average banana and contains less sugar. Restoration of electrolytes is important for muscle recovery and repair.
5. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc
Zinc levels are high in a serving of pumpkin seeds – both shelled and unshelled varieties. Zinc plays many roles in the body including skin repair and growth, immune system function and production of testosterone in both men and women. A good-sized handful of pumpkin seeds will provide about 5mg of zinc which is half of the daily recommended dietary intake. The seeds also have phytonutrients that contribute to lowering of LDL cholesterol and improvement of brain function.
To help you get on your way with more fun ways to incorporate pumpkin into your diet, blogger Kelly Brozyna of “The Spunky Coconut” has a wide array of recipes from pumpkinpancakes to pumpkin chili and pumpkin granola – all grain-free and dairy free. Click here here to browse through.