Three Ways to Enjoy Healthy Pumpkins

Vivid Orange Food that Is Fun to Play With

Pumpkins have a strong association with the supernatural. Yes,they are supernaturally healthful.

The traditional instruction from parents to “eat your food, don’t play with it” was not meant for pumpkins. These giant fruits, each with its own distinct form and personality, light up October with fun.

It’s hard to look at a pumpkin without smiling. These special plants give you something to smile about, because pumpkins are healthy in at least three ways.

First, pumpkins fascinate with their vivid color, intriguing forms, and range of possibilities. The idea of carving a jack-o-lantern brings out the kid in people of all ages. So pumpkins stimulate creativity.

Often the carving is a family project, an innocent way for parents, kids, siblings, and friends to work together cooperatively. The whole process ignites active engagement, fine motor skills, artistic talents, and joy. Contrast this with the passive and sedentary ways so many kids now spend much of their time. So pumpkins enhance mental health, satisfaction of completing a creative project, family bonding, and happiness, which would be reason enough to buy them in itself.

Second, pumpkins are a super healthy food. When you buy a couple to carve or decorate, don’t neglect to grab a couple more to cook and eat. Buy the smaller “pie” pumpkins for this, as the large craft-size specimens are not as sweet or tasty.

While most parts of the pumpkin plant are edible, the two pumpkin foods most people enjoy are the seeds and the fruit. Yes, pumpkins are actually fruits, but since they have the low calories typical of vegetables, you can think of them as a vegetable in planning meals.

Although pumpkins are not as well-studied as some other foods, researchers have discovered pumpkins have important health benefits. Further research would undoubtedly add to this list.

Pumpkins now are available in many sizes and colors. An urban pumpkin patch brings a feel for the country to the city.

• Pumpkin lowers blood glucose, helping normalize levels to closer to ideal

• Pumpkins may also help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol

• The many nutrients in pumpkins are powerful antioxidants, working to protect your cells from the destructive effects of the free radicals that accelerate aging. Pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, the phytochemical your body uses to put together the optimal amount of vitamin A that it requires.

• The oil in pumpkin seeds helps improve urinary flow in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia

• Pumpkin seeds have an excellent ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, which helps maintain an ideal balance of anti- and pro-inflammatory factors in your body

• Pumpkins are filling and satisfying, yet low in calories. This aids with weight loss and maintaining a trim body. Remember, though, that there are no “super foods” that will overcome the effects of a diet based on manufactured and animal foods. What counts is your overall pattern of eating. Pumpkins are a great addition to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Pumpkins are a tasty ingredient for soups, stews, wraps, casseroles, chili, bread, and – of course – desserts. You can steam, roast, or boil pumpkin and mash it with some dairy-free milk and spices for a treat all in its own. Check out the blog and search for “pumpkin” for excellent ideas about where to begin.

Finally, in thinking about the health benefits of pumpkin, don’t forget this food is fun to grow. As for all gardening, rasing pumpkins gets you outdoors where you will be exercising and enjoying fresh air. The sunshine powers your skin to make vitamin D.

You may be happy to plant just a few small pumpkins for carving and eating. Or you may yearn to grow a giant pumpkin, which is a sport in itself. Consult the internet and gardening books for instructions for success. A good place to start is the pumpkin patch site. The world’s record giant pumpkin, grown in 2009, weighed in at 1725 pounds. Can you beat that? You’ll get lots of great exercise and challenge trying, that’s for sure. And the pumpkins will brighten up your garden and make you smile every time you look at it.

Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on plant-based nutrition. Quick information at no cost!

Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.

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