Although pumpkin’s image is closely intertwined with Halloween, this delicious fall squash has a lot more to offer than one night of carving fun and scary faces. Unfortunately, its culinary uses and health benefits are often forgotten and put aside once the spooky holiday has come and passed. While pumpkin spice latte lovers shine some light on this colorful autumnal delicacy, we believe it deserves more attention, especially as pumpkin actually has an impressive range of nutritional benefits that we seldom talk about.
Did you know, for example, that consuming pumpkin regularly can improve your immunity, give your digestion a boost, and even protect you against many chronic diseases? Yes, pumpkin flesh can do all of that and more!
So, go get yourself a pumpkin and start thinking of ways to include more of this vibrant fall staple in your diet (although we can help with that)! Here are a few reasons why pumpkin deserves to be on your plate, not only this season, but all year round.
One of the things we love most about pumpkin is its incredibly vibrant orange color. It turns out that its high content in beta-carotene is responsible for its beautiful hue. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, B-vitamins, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, and fiber. Apart from this impressive array of vitamins and minerals, pumpkins are chock full of antioxidants such as lutein, polysaccharides, phytosterols, unsaturated fatty acids, and peptides. Here are a few of the amazing effects these nutrients have on our brain and body:
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
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As mentioned, pumpkin is a great source of potassium. This mineral plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and for this reason it has been shown to reduce the risk of having a stroke and developing heart disease. Carotonoids, a family of antioxidants found in pumpkin, also help prevent heart disease because of their inhibiting effect on the oxidation of cholesterol in our arteries.
Want to reap the heart protective benefits of pumpkin? We suggest making this delicious Creamy Pumpkin Soup With Pumpkin Sour Cream, picture above, this Creamy Pumpkin Lasagna, or this Portobello Pumpkin Ravioli With Sage and Walnut Pesto for dinner tonight.
As you probably know, free-radicals create inflammation in our tissues which leads to aging and the development of many chronic diseases. Carotonoids, polysaccharides, phytosterols, and peptides found in pumpkin are all powerful free-radical scavengers that work together to eliminate inflammation at the source in our bodies.
You can protect your brain and body from the deleterious effects of free-radicals by eating recipes like this Pumpkin Chili With Wild Rice, pictured above, this Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin With Tahini Yogurt and Hazelnut, this Pumpkin and Spinach Curry, or this Quick Pumpkin and Carrot Curry.
Did you know that only one cup of cooked pumpkin contains 17 percent of our RDA for vitamin C? Vitamin C and vitamin A found in pumpkin help keep our immune system strong because of their essential role in multiple cellular functions, especially in warding off pathogens that make us prone to infections and bring diseases like staph, pneumonia, influenza, and the common cold.
Boost your immune system and get ready for winter by eating vitamin-rich pumpkin recipes like this comforting Pumpkin Coconut Soup With Walnut Gremolata, pictured above, this Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Chili, this Pumpkin Gnocchi in Spiced Butter Sauce With Lemon Cashew, and this Pumpkin Cannelloni With Almond Sauce.
Pumpkin’s wide array of antioxidants — carotonoids, lutein, polysaccharides, phytosterols, unsaturated fatty acids, and peptides! — have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumors. This effect is due to their ability to modify gene transcription and inhibit the production of pro-cancerous proteins at the cellular level. How amazing is that?
Get cancer proof and delight your taste buds by making this Hearty Pumpkin Chickpea Curry, pictured above, this Grilled Pumpkin With Spinach Cauliflower Pesto, this Fresh, Homemade Pumpkin Pasta, or these amazing Curried Pumpkin and Chickpea Burgers.
Pumpkin has incredible benefits when it comes to brain health. It’s one of the best plant-based sources of naturally occurring tryptophan, an amino acid that contributes to the production of serotonin in our brain. This neurotransmitter is involved directly in mood regulation and sleep, which means that consuming pumpkin regularly helps prevent stress, anxiety, and even depression.
Want to boost your mood and keep your brain healthy? This Pumpkin Tarka Dhal, pictured above, this Creamy Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagna, and this Hokkaido Pumpkin Gnocchi With Hazelnut Pesto will help you do it!
Interested in learning more about the health benefits of what’s in season or recipes featuring colorful fall produce? Check out these articles:
- Beyond Pumpkin: Other Seasonal Fall Vegetables You Should Be Using and How to Use Them
- Squashes, Pumpkins, and Root Veggies: The Health Benefits of Fall’s Bounty
- 15 Unique Ways to Use Butternut Squash This Fall
- 15 Comforting Pumpkin Entrées For Chilly Fall Evenings
- From Persimmons to Pomegranates: Fall Fruits That Can Improve Your Complexion, Hair, and Nails
- How to Build the Perfect Fall Power Bowl
- Dive Into Fall With These 15 Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes
If you’re looking for more plant-based recipes featuring pumpkins and other delicious seasonal veggies, as well as cooking tips, then we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Ginny/Flickr