By Nancy Mehlert, MS
Wait! Before you say you don’t like pumpkin, consider trying it again. Here’s why:
The fruit of these large, vining plants, so associated with harvest, belong to the Cucurbitaceae, or cucumber family. The two main types are “pepo,” dubbed “small” pumpkins and are often carved into Jack-o-lanterns, and “maxima,” the giant variety grown to enter the “biggest pumpkin” contest at the county fair.
Pumpkins are wonderful when it comes to vitamins and minerals, including large amounts of fiber and 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement. Pumpkins also provide plentiful amounts of vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Smaller but significant amounts of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus also are present.
What does that mean for us? The bright orange hints at the presence of a particularly beneficial phytonutrient: carotene. This converts to vitamin A in the body for a tremendous punch of antioxidants with the capacity to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and many of the degenerating signs of aging. Vitamin A is also a must for good vision and helping to prevent lung and mouth cancers. Flavonoids such as cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin destroy harmful free radicals, and the latter, especially, helps protect the retina of the eye from macular degeneration.
Pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty, easy-to-transport snack, you could also say they’re a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins. Two cups contain 30 grams of protein, 110% of the daily recommended allowance for iron, and 559 calories. The fiber helps maintain regular elimination to keep the colon clear. Two cups may sound like a lot and we are not suggesting you eat it all in one sitting, but rather over the course of a week, 8 – ¼ cup servings adds a great deal of nutrition to snacking, salads, sweet potato and butternut squash, just to name a few uses. A special bonus in pumpkin seeds is the amino acid tryptophan, which, once in the brain, converts into serotonin – a neurotransmitter which relaxes the body, calms the nerves, and improves sleep.
Suggestions: Stir canned organic pumpkin into a Paleo porridge such as Pure Traditions Instant Hot Cereal (www.paleomountain.com). Blend pumpkin puree with cooked acorn squash, carrot, sweet potato or butternut squash and blend with chicken bone broth and spices for a creamy, winter soup. Pureed pumpkin blended with unsweetened applesauce makes a great baby food or seniors food where chewing is an issue. Also a great comfort food for everyone to replace puddings. Perform an internet search for a keto pumpkin pie and you will find plenty of low sugar, healthy pumpkin pie options for the holidays.