The Great Pumpkin Craze

It’s fall and everyone has gone crazy over pumpkin. I’m not talking about decorative pumpkins – although carving pumpkins has been taken to new heights. Rather, I am referring to the food world. It seems like every aisle of the grocery has something with pumpkin in it.

pumpkin carved

Not only are there seasonal favorites like pumpkin-spiced lattes and pumpkin pie, but pumpkin muffins, pumpkin tortilla chips, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cereals, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin greek yogurt, even pumpkin dog treats, and so much more. On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s I was overwhelmed by the plethora of pumpkin products – I counted at least 50. Wow.

Food makers have figured out that we adore these sweet orange gourds and have made great efforts to capitalize on our love of pumpkin.

And while many of these pumpkin products are delicious (some are just disgusting), there are a lot of health benefits to eating pumpkin as well. But to get all the nutritional benefits of pumpkin you are better off making your own treats rather than eating the myriad of processed foods that add pumpkin (or pumpkin spice) mostly as a marketing ploy.

Pumpkin’s Health Benefits:

healthy pumpkin

  • Increased Eye Health – Pumpkin’s vivid orange color is from its ample supply of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for eye health – helping the retina absorb and process light. One cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, making it great for promoting for eye health.Pumpkin also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help prevent cataracts and slow the development of macular degeneration.
  • Possible Pound Shedding – Pumpkin is rich in fiber (3 grams per one-cup serving). Fiber slows digestion and keeps you feeling fuller for a longer period of time, which can help with weight loss. Canned pumpkin is nearly 90 percent water, so it also  helps keep you hydrated and has less than 50 calories per serving.
  • Immune System Boost – Pumpkin’s vitamin A aids in fighting  off infections. Pumpkin also contains nearly 20 percent of the recommended amount of daily recommendation of vitamin C, known to help recover from colds faster. Plus, Pumpkin oil is packed with nutrients that fend off bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Warding off Cancer – Because pumpkins are rich in betacarotene and vitamin A and C, all antioxidants that may lower the risks for lung cancer and prostate cancer, your cells get extra protection from cancer-causing free radicals.
  • Heart Healthy – Seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are naturally rich in phytosterols (plant-based chemicals) that can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
  • Post-Workout Energy – Pumpkins are packed with potassium. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 milligrams of potassium. That more than a banana’s 422 milligrams. Getting additional potassium helps restore electrolytes after a rigorous workout and keeps muscles functioning at their peak performance.
  • Mood Booster – Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is crucial in production of serotonin, one of the major factors in making you feel euphoric or in a more positive mood.
  • Skin Protection – The beta-carotene packed in pumpkin helps protect skin from the sun’s harsh wrinkle-causing UV rays. Pumpkin pulp also can be used to make an all-natural facial mask that exfoliates and soothes the skin.

Here are two great pumpkin recipes.

Both are delicious. One is super-healthy and other, well, it has bacon, bread heavy cream and cheese.

stuffed pumpkinBaked Mini Stuffed Pumpkins

You can leave out the sausage for a delicious vegetarian dish

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

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