Treat yourself to some orangey goodness this Halloween!
It’s that time of year again! The shops are full of big, beautiful, orange pumpkins, begging to be bought, carved with ghoulish faces and lit up. But what nutritious goodness can be found inside these orange orbs?
Pumpkins are actually classified as a fruit, and are part of the Cucurbitaceous family, rich in dietary fibre and full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. They have one of the highest levels of Vitamin A, which is required by the body for maintaining healthy skin and mucus levels and is vital for good vision and eye health. The bright orange colour of pumpkins indicates that they are an excellent source of poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as Beta-carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. When we eat the flesh of a pumpkin our bodies convert the beta-carotene into Vitamin A.
Lutein and Zea-xanthin are powerful anti-oxidants and are yellow to red in colour. They are found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye and help guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can destroy cells, cause inflammation and contribute to the rise of many diseases. The combination of these two anti-oxidants found in pumpkins can help to prevent macular degeneration, whilst lutein may also help protect against atherosclerosis, which is the build up of plaques in the arteries, and is a risk factor for heart attacks.
Pumpkins contain nearly 20% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for women, and are also a great source of the B complex vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
And it is not just vitamins that these orange orbs contain – they are also full of minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and copper. In fact, pumpkins have more potassium per cup than bananas – so they are great for refueling after a hard workout and restoring the balance of electrolytes to aid muscle recovery.
And that’s not all – make sure you don’t throw away the seeds when you are carving out your pumpkin, as these also pack a mighty punch.
Pumpkin seeds contain high levels of magnesium, which is a natural relaxant and can reduce muscle cramps. Magnesium also has significant benefits against insulin resistance, which is good news for diabetics. They are high in tryptophan, which is an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the body. Serotonin is released in the evening to start preparing our bodies for a good night’s sleep.
These tiny powerhouses contain a high level of zinc, which is a mineral essential for women during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. They also contain high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which have numerous benefits and are essential to human health.
The easily digested protein in pumpkin seeds helps to stabilize blood sugar, which makes them a good snack when trying to lose weight. Pumpkin seeds provide a good source of iron, contributing to healthy blood and guarding against anaemia. The dietary fibre found in pumpkin seeds help to keep the digestive tract working properly.
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, but for a delicious snack pop them in the oven (perhaps with a sprinkling of salt) while you are carving your work of art and dry roast for approximately 15-20 minutes on a low to medium heat, and enjoy whilst admiring your glowing jack’o’lantern.
For a delicious way to use your pumpkin this year, this recipe is a sure-fire winter warmer winner and full of nutritious goodness that the whole family will love.
Pumpkins…how will you eat yours? 😋