Though we have officially entered the winter season, that doesn’t mean we have to stop eating all of those delicious pumpkin offerings that abound during the fall months. You know, the spiced pumpkin lattes and pumpkin scones and muffins.
While many of the pumpkin-flavored goodies I just mentioned are loaded with sugar and are not the healthiest treats, pumpkin itself is packed with vitamins and nutrients that offer many health benefits.
Here are 6 reasons you should eat more!
Did you know pumpkins contain more than 200% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, which makes them great for maintaining healthy eyesight. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s recommended adults take 900 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin A each day. This is because a vitamin A deficiency has been linked to blindness.
Also, a Harvard study published in the journal Archives of Opthalmology found that vitamin A can slow the progression of several diseases, most notably retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt’s disease. The study found that vitamin A supplements (4,500 mcg) slowed the decline of retinitis pigmentosa by 32% among all patients between the ages of 18 to 49. And, the best part, no adverse effects were reported with using these higher doses of vitamin A.
Why not get some of your daily dose of this critical vitamin by eating pumpkin instead?
Catch More ZZZs
It seems more of us are having a much harder time getting enough sleep these days. But instead of reaching for a pharmaceutical solution, why not grab some pumpkin seeds instead?
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that makes you sleepy. In fact, turkey is loaded with tryptophan, which is why we all get sleepy after eating too much of it on Thanksgiving. Tryptophan is also a precursor to melatonin, the sleep hormone, and serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. This means you won’t only get better night’s sleep, you’ll also feel calmer and happier.
Lose Those Extra Pounds
It’s great when you can eat something that actually helps you shed some extra pounds. As it turns out, pumpkins can help you lose weight in a variety of ways.
First, pumpkin is low in calories but high in fiber, meaning you have to eat less of it to feel full. Plus, pumpkin is loaded with potassium, iron and magnesium, all of which also help you feel fuller longer. And, as you know, the equation for losing weight is more calories out, fewer calories in.
Improve Heart Health
All of that beneficial fiber I just mentioned? Well, it’s not just good for weight loss, it’s also good for your heart. According to a Harvard study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who ate a diet high in fiber had a 40% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to those who ate a low-fiber diet.
Why is fiber good for your heart? Because it binds with LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol before being absorbed. Plus, it helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers down blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart disease.
Lowers Blood Pressure
And speaking of lowering blood pressure, pumpkins just happen to be loaded with phytoestrogens, which are great at preventing hypertension. Also, oil within pumpkin seeds contains about 90% unsaturated fats and has plenty of fatty acids, all of which help to stabilize blood pressure levels. In fact, a 2000 study published in the journal Pharmacological Research found that pumpkin seed oil enhanced the effects of anti-hypertensive medications felodipine and captopril.
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Protects the Prostate
Pumpkins, specifically the seeds, contain a lot of beta-carotene and other antioxidants with anti-carcinogenic properties. It’s these chemicals in the seeds that lead to an increase in urination, which helps prevent bladder discomfort due to an enlarged prostate. In fact, a 2006 study published in the journal Urology Internationalis found pumpkin seed oil inhibited unhealthy prostate growth.
“Pumpkin seeds have long been attributed to decreasing the size of the prostate and preventing the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which has been associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy.”
There are plenty of great and healthy pumpkin-based recipes online, but what you don’t want to do is combine pumpkin with a lot of sugar or flour. While enjoying a pumpkin muffin or pumpkin bread is fine once in a while, try and prepare healthy dishes to get the full health benefits.