October’s featured superfood: Pumpkin

October’s featured superfood: Pumpkin

Pumpkins often bring to mind images of fall bonfires, jack-o’-lanterns, hay rides, and seasonal desserts, not to mention the pumpkin spice hype — but some people miss pumpkin’s potential as a superfood. They’re actually one of the most nutritious fruits out there. Loaded with antioxidants and disease- fighting vitamins, these gourds aren’t just for carving. Pumpkins are a bona fide superfood.

One glance at a pumpkin’s bright orange color, and you’ll see the source of its beta-carotene. Your body uses beta-carotene and converts it to vitamin A, which is important for eye health. Vitamin A helps your retina process and absorb light correctly. Just one cup of pumpkin provides you with more than 200% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A. Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, substances that may help prevent the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

Pumpkin contains magnesium, which is important for muscle regulation as well as the regulation of the nervous system. This makes it an ideal post-workout snack. One cup of pumpkin provides 14 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Raw pumpkin has only 15 calories per 1/2 cup, and is full of iron, zinc, and fiber. It has more potassium then a banana at a whopping 500 milligrams of potassium per cup. It’s high in vitamin C.

Canned pumpkin has a similar nutrient profile with slightly less fiber than fresh, but more bioavailable beta carotene due to heat used in the canning process. Canned pumpkin is packed with vitamins and provides over 50 percent of the daily value of vitamin K, which may reduce your risk for some types of cancer.

And don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and fiber, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Pumpkin seeds can provide an additional 37 percent of daily intake for magnesium.

And take note- if a recipe calls for canned pumpkin, don’t be afraid to replace it with fresh. Placing a small, cleaned-out pumpkin in the microwave for six minutes will make the insides easy to scoop out.

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