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10 Health Benefits of Pumpkins You Didn't Know (And 32 Creative Ways To Have Pumpkin)

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In the 6th grade, I won a 300 pound pumpkin through a raffle that my teacher held for us.

This was the biggest pumpkin I’d ever seen in real life! I was so stoked to have it, because nobody else in my neighborhood had one as big as this. Cutting it open and removing the insides was a primal experience. Carving it was exhilarating and I hardly had the patience to wait to get it on our front porch and show it off to everyone.

Then Halloween night came around, and the 300 pound pumpkin was on display on our front porch.  I’ll never forget that night.  Crowds of people hovered around to see the specimen. Some even took pictures. I was so proud of my pumpkin.

For nearly a decade after that night, that’s how I viewed pumpkin. It was something you carved out on Halloween and displayed for show. I never associated pumpkin as a food. Until I had it in my oatmeal (and I share an amazing pumpkin oatmeal recipe later in this post). Not only did I realize that pumpkin was delicious, I soon found out it’s an underrated super-food!

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. You will feel fuller

Pumpkin seeds contain up to 1.7g of fiber, and mashed pumpkin has up to 3g of fiber per cup. Why is this important? First off getting 30-50g of fiber a day is recommended, unfortunately most people only get about half of that or less. Don’t worry, having some winter squash like pumpkin in your diet consistently (I’ll show you how you can do it at the end of this post) sets you up on the right path to hit your dietary fiber needs. Secondly, eating pumpkin increases satiation and helps you feel fuller longer, by slowing down digestion and regulating blood sugar levels.

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2. You will sleep better

Pumpkin is rich in trytophan, an amino acid which gets converted to serotonin, which may also explain the post Thanksgiving sleepiness. Serotonin is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that helps you settle down, unwind and doze off to sleep.

3. You will have a healthy heart

Increased fiber intake can also help protect you from heart disease, research shows. In fact, one study of over 67,000 thousand women over a 10 year span, demonstrates that a diet high in fiber intake reduces the risk of heart disease.

4. You’ll increase your prostate health

Pumpkin seeds should make their way in to every man’s diet for good reason. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in American men. One man in 7 are likely to get prostate cancer. Cancerous prostates show much less Zinc compared to healthy prostates and several studies have implicated impaired zinc status in the development and progression of prostate malignancy. Pumpkin is rich in Zinc; it contains more than 2mg per ounce which can contribute to the prevention of prostate cancer, research shows.

5. You will get magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in many physiological functions like the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), relaxation of the nervous system, muscle growth and regulating bowel movements. And, 80% of Americans are deficient magnesium. Just 1 oz. of pumpkin seeds deliver about 30% of your daily recommended magnesium requirements.

6. You’ll feel the antioxidant benefits

Beta carotene, is a provitamin the body converts into vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with its ability to fend of cancer. Beta carotene is thought to play a role protecting cells, boosting the immune system and helping to keep the reproductive system healthy. Get some pumpkin into your life! A half cup of canned pumpkin packs 953mg of vitamin A and only 42 calories. 

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7. When you eat some pumpkin, you burn the fat

Pumpkin is a great high nutrient, low calorie food. With only 42 calories per cup and loaded with fiber, pumpkin will keep you full longer, and regulate your blood sugar levels to keep food cravings at bay which helps you eat fewer calories and burn more fat.

8. It’ll keep your eyesight sharp

A cup of pumpkin will meet your daily vitamin A requirements that aid in the integrity of your vision, especially in dim light according the National Institute of Health. 

9. You will have to eat less bananas

Bananas have made themselves popular for their potassium benefits.  But did you know that a cup of cooked pumpkin has 564mg compared to bananas 422mg?  Potassium deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and inactive reflexes, so switch it up and rotate some pumpkin into your diet instead of solely relying on bananas for potassium

10. It will boost your mood

Serotonin deficiency is a growing concern for many people. Researchers claim that it’s an epidemic  inflicting its unique dark cloud misery on people and it’s noted that 80% of people suffer from serotonin deficiency. The reason why serotonin is important to overall wellness is because it’s our primary defense against depression and anxiety. A simple way to make sure you’re producing natural serotonin is to include foods that contain the amino acid tryptohphan which gets converted to serotinin in your body. Pumpkin seeds contain loads of tryptophan which will help keep your outlook on life bright.

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So how do you incorporate pumpkin into your diet?

You can do it in so many creative ways! Seeds, canned, cooked, raw, in a casserole, in a cookie. During the fall you can add canned pumpkin to almost any dish, and you have a seasonal autumn dish ready to go. I like adding canned pumpkin to my oatmeal. It’s quick, easy, nutritious and delicious. Here is my favorite pumpkin oatmeal recipe you can try.

Don’t forget about the seeds: they are high in nutrition and super easy to prepare! After you remove the seeds from the inside of the pumpkin, rinse and dry them off.  Place them on a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with your seasoning of choice (Here are 5 great ideas for seasoning) and lightly roast at 160-170 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Lastly, here are 25 awesome and delicious ways to include pumpkin into your diet. Enjoy!

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Featured photo credit: http://www.bigstockphoto.com/search/?contributor=Gorilla via bigstockphoto.com

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