Add Pumpkin to Your Family’s Diet this Season

By Leah Blalock, MS, RD, CSP, CDE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s 

Although they are power-packed with nutrients, pumpkins are best known as Halloween decorations.  As a New World native and Thanksgiving staple, they are more American than apple pie. If your goal is a healthy nutritious diet, add pumpkin to meals regularly.  It’s the season afterall! Check out their many nutritious benefits below:

• Pumpkin’s culinary flexibility makes it a tasteful addition to everything from breads and desserts to beer and soup. Substitute pumpkin for other moist ingredients in your recipes, or choose recipes specifically listing pumpkin as an ingredient.
• Pumpkin keeps eyesight sharp.  A cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, which aids vision, particularly in dim light, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
• Pumpkin aids in weight loss. One cup provides 49 calories and 3 grams of fiber. It can keep you fuller longer on lesser calories, thereby shedding pounds!
• Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, can help your heart.  Try some on a salad! They are rich in plant based chemicals called phytosterols that studies show help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol. One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. They are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which can help boost your mood.
• Pumpkin may reduce cancer risk. It boasts the antioxidant beta carotene, which may play a role in cancer prevention, according to the National Cancer Institute. The plant sterols in pumpkin seeds have also been linked to fighting off certain cancers.
• Pumpkin protects the skin. The same free radical neutralizing powers of beta carotenoids in pumpkin that may keep cancer cells at bay may also help keep the skin wrinkle free.
• Pumpkin can help after a hard workout. One cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium, with 565mg to a banana’s 422mg. A little extra potassium can help restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keep muscles functioning at their best.
• Pumpkin can boost your immune system. It’s a solid source of vitamin C and zinc. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than 11mg of vitamin C and 0.37 mg of zinc.

Try this fun and healthy recipe:

Pumpkin Pie  Smoothie
• 1 cup pumpkin purée
• 1 large ripe banana
• 1 cup unsweetened soymilk or coconut milk beverage
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• 5 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve. (Source: www.wholefoodsmarket.com)

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