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Pumpkin Power: Halloween Symbol Packed With Nutrition

Pumpkin Power: Halloween Symbol Packed With Nutrition
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By    |   Monday, 30 October 2017 12:24 PM

It’s a great American tradition to hit pumpkin patches with the family, pick out a beauty to take home, and carve it into a jack-o’-lantern as part of Halloween festivities. Unfortunately, most people don’t actually eat this super-nutritious food.

“Pumpkins are not just good for making something scary,” says functional medicine nutritionist Paula Mendelsohn. “In our culture, we think of pumpkins only around Halloween time, and only for decorations and dessert. In other places, it is used year-round as a starch staple that is similar to sweet potatoes.”

Like sweet potatoes, pumpkins are packed with nutrition, most notably potassium, beta-carotene, and fiber.

“Bananas may get all of the good press, but pumpkins are much higher in potassium,” Mendelsohn tells Newsmax Health.

Potassium is important because it can help counter blood pressure problems exacerbated by a typical American diet high in sodium. Potassium helps the kidneys to excrete sodium. It also relaxes tension in blood vessels, a marker of cardiovascular disease.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans average just over half the 4,700 milligrams per day considered to be adequate intake.

“Potassium is linked to reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of stroke, retention of lean muscle mass and maintenance of bone density,” says Mendelsohn.

Beta-carotene is another key nutrient plentiful in pumpkins, evident by their trademark orange color. Our bodies transform plant beta-carotene into vitamin A, which we need for our skin, mucus membranes and eye health.

“Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of colon cancer and other cancers related to oxidative stress,” says Mendelsohn.

A third big benefit of pumpkins is that they are a great sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which Americans tend to lack in their diet.

“Fiber is the best F-word in nutrition,” says Mendelsohn, who practices in Boca Raton, Fla. “It helps reduce cholesterol, balance blood sugar and lower weight. Soluble fiber is like a sponge. It soaks up water and whatever is dissolved in it. Insoluble fiber is like a broom that pushes the water along for elimination, which is one reason why it helps with chronic constipation.”

Pumpkins are also rich in vitamins C and E, several B vitamins, and the minerals copper and manganese. There are lesser amounts of iron, magnesium and phosphorous.

To prepare pumpkin, it can be steamed, baked or boiled. You can boost nutrition and flavor by adding complementary spices such as turmeric, ginger, cumin and garlic.

And when you carve that jack-o’-lantern, don’t toss the seeds. They are a good source of the amino acid arginine, protein and fiber.

“Wash off the seeds, then roast them,” suggests Mendelsohn. “They make a good snack – healthier than potato chips and less fattening than nuts.”

When fresh pumpkins aren’t available, you can use canned or pureed versions. Mendelsohn says to buy organic, or at least pure pumpkin with no unhealthy added ingredients such as salt and sugar.

“Pumpkin is a good addition for stews, soups and casseroles,” notes Mendelsohn. “You can experiment with it. Consider it a culinary adventure.”

Pumpkin puree can even be added to baked goods, boosting the nutrition of comfort foods. Mendelsohn suggests using it in a batter for pancakes, waffles, muffins and even cookies.

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Pumpkins, the traditional symbol of Halloween, are good for more than just carving into a jack-o'-lantern. In fact, they are a super-nutritious food, packed with vitamins, fiber, and other health-boosting compounds.
pumpkin, nutrition, diet, food, super, food, halloween
Monday, 30 October 2017 12:24 PM
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