Pumpkins are a fall staple, but did you know they are healthy too? Here are five little-known facts about the health benefits of pumpkin. Look beyond the pumpkin-spiced lattes and see how many ways you can incorporate pumpkin into your diet this fall!
1.) Excellent source of Beta-carotene: 1 cup of pureed pumpkin contains over 200 percent of the recommended amount of beta-carotene than people need – truly making it one of Fall’s super-foods. Beta carotene (a form of Vitamin A) is a powerful antioxidant that can improve the way your eyes absorb and process light. Along with lutein and zeaxanthin, beta carotene can also help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
2.) High in Beta-cryptoxanthin: Beta-cryptoxanthin is also an antioxidant, sometimes called Pro-Vitamin A. Although it is not quite as potent as beta-carotene, it is unique because it helps to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to certain forms of arthritis, as well as heart disease, certain cancers and possibly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
3.) Potassium: 1 cup of pureed pumpkin contains approximately 15 percent of the daily value for potassium. Potassium is important because it counteracts the harmful effects of sodium and can help to lower blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney damage.
4.) Fiber: If you are looking to drop a few pounds or would like better blood sugar control – fiber is your friend! One cup of pumpkin contains around 50 calories and 3 grams of fiber. In addition, let’s not forget about pumpkin seeds, one cup of roasted pumpkin seeds contains nearly 8 grams of fiber.
5.) Fat Replacer in Baked Goods: Move over applesauce – pumpkin can also replace fat when preparing cakes or quick breads. In fact, a delicious, easy recipe is to use a cake mix such as chocolate, red velvet or spice and one can of pureed pumpkin! That’s it, no eggs, no oil, no water, just the cake mix and the pumpkin. It creates a thick batter so if you have a stand mixer, it would be best to use it. Then, using an ice cream scoop, evenly divide the batter to make 12 cupcakes and bake 18 to 22 minutes in a 350-degree oven. The result is moist, almost brownie-like texture cupcakes. Yum!