Ever since Starbucks came out with Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2003, pumpkin-flavored anything has been trending. From pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, and even pumpkin deodorant, pumpkin is everywhere.
But aside from being trendy, pumpkins also pack a huge health benefit. Here are five ways pumpkin can influence your health and wellness.
Help Keep Eyesight Sharp
Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A, a nutrient that aids in vision. In fact, one cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin packs a hefty 200% of your recommended daily value of vitamin A.
Aids in Weight Loss
One cup of pumpkin has 50 calories and three grams of fiber. Diets high in fiber keep you feeling full longer, which means eating less overall.
Helps with Workout Recovery
Potassium is an electrolyte often depleted during exercise. Replacing this lost potassium keeps muscles functioning at their best. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 mg of potassium (that’s 35 percent more than a banana!).
May Prevent Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, pumpkins may play a role in cancer prevention due to the high levels of a particular antioxidant known as beta-carotene.
Promotes Heart Health
It’s not just the “meat” of the pumpkin that’s healthy, but the seeds are rich in phytosterols, a chemical that has been shown to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
Now that you understand the overall benefits of pumpkin, here are five ways you can incorporate pumpkin into your daily diet.
Try Stuffed Pumpkin
Not only is stuffed pumpkin an impressive family meal, but it is also an excellent way to portion control.
- Cut off the pumpkin top and clean out the seeds and filling.
- Place the pumpkin upside down on your baking sheet with a little water, and bake at 350F° for 30 minutes.
- Stuff it with your favorite healthy dish, such as a quinoa stuffed pumpkin.
Use Pumpkin Puree in Place of Fat
Yep, that’s right. Use pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio to replace oils or butter in your baked goods. This method can be used in place of oil in bread, cookies, or muffins and lowers the fat content and calories.
Try this French Fry Substitute
Step aside, french fries. Baked pumpkin fries are this holiday’s new snack to indulge.
- Remove the pumpkin skin and cut the squash into fry-like strips.
- Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and coat them with a spice of your choice (try cinnamon or chili powder).
- Bake at 350F° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Roast the Seeds for a Healthy Snack
- Place the seeds in a bowl of water to get the “goop” off (goop sinks, seeds float).
- Dry the seeds and spread on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
- Season with your choice of seasoning (try garlic, cumin, or chili powder).
- Roast at 325F° for 15-25 minutes or until crunchy.
Greek Yogurt + Pumpkin = Dessert
Eating plain-flavored Greek yogurt is healthy, but admittedly, it doesn’t taste that exciting. Spice it up with the following recipe that doesn’t add tons of added sugars or fats.
- Mix ½ cup of pumpkin puree with one tablespoon of maple syrup and one teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
- In a parfait glass, alternate layering pumpkin mix with low-fat Greek yogurt.
- Top with granola if desired.