The leaves are changing and pumpkin spice drinks are at every coffee place in sight. Oh, and stores are selling pumpkin pies, pumpkin bread, canned pumpkin, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin beer, and, of course, actual pumpkins too. Pumpkins are taking over and we couldn’t be more excited.
Let’s be clear for a second: we are excited for real pumpkins, not that fake flavoring or canned stuff. Halloween festivities include pumpkin carving, but most people don’t realize that pumpkins are good for so more than being hollowed out and carved to impress trick-or-treaters. They actually have tons of health benefits and most people avoid eating fresh pumpkins. The big carving pumpkins aren’t really meant for eating, but you always save their seeds and roast them for a healthy snack. Fun fact: pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of zinc and selenium. To eat pumpkin meat, you have to purchase the smaller sweet baby pumpkins.
When you carve a pumpkin for Halloween, you scoop out the stringy stuff and the seeds. Instead of discarding those seeds, wash them off and roast them in your oven. Pumpkin seeds are nutritionally dense and are great for healthy snacking. Pre-heat your oven to 325º Fahrenheit and spread your washed and dried pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet. Season them with a pinch of sea salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. You can use whichever seasonings you enjoy to change the flavor profile. For instance, ginger powder, garlic powder, pepper, and a dashes of coconut aminos make for a wonderful Asian-inspired snack. Bake for about 20 minutes and then remove to cool.
#1: You’ll Sleep Better
This is actually thanks to pumpkin seeds, more than the actual pumpkin. They are rich in tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps you relax and unwind. So roast these seeds after carving a pumpkin and eat them to help you fall asleep.
#2: Protect Your Package
Pumpkin meat and seeds contain beta-carotene and other antioxidants that have cancer-fighting properties. In recent studies, pumpkin seed oil has shown that it inhibits prostate growth in rats, primarily due to the zinc content.
#3: Lower Blood Pressure
As it turns out, your heart loves pumpkin just as much as your taste buds do. The potassium in pumpkins can actually help you lower blood pressure because it reduces sodium levels in the body. Studies have shown that people who eat more potassium have reduced risk of stroke and high blood pressure, two risk factors of heart disease. You can also use pumpkin seed oil to help prevent hypertension!
#4: You’ll Feel Full
Why is this important? When you feel full, you won’t crave those unhealthy things like chips, candy, desserts, or even soda. Pumpkins contain fiber, which satiates you between meals, leading to reduced food intake. It also keeps your digestive system happy.
#5: Boost Your Vision
One cup of pumpkin meat contains twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. The body converts vitamin A into beta-carotene, which helps to promote healthy vision. Scientists analyzed 22 studies and determined that people with higher beta-carotene intake had decreased risk of cataracts. Other research found that pumpkin is one of the best sources of zeaxanthin and lutein, which are two compounds that decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Finally, pumpkin contains vitamins C & E, both of which work to protect your eye cells from harmful free radicals.
#6: Improve Immune Function
As we previously mentioned, pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. According to recent studies, vitamin A works to strengthen the immune system to help combat infections. People who are deficient in vitamin A tend to have weaker immune systems. Pumpkins are also rich in vitamin C, which works to increase the amount of white blood cells in the body, ultimately increasing immune function.
#7: Reduce Cancer Risk
As you may have deduced by now, pumpkins are nutrient powerhouses and possess a magical combo of vitamins and minerals to fight off cancer cells. An analysis of 13 studies on carotenoids have shown that higher levels of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene can significantly decrease the risk of several stomach cancers. These carotenoids can also reduce the presence of free radicals and lower the risk of pancreas, breast, throat, and several other cancers.