What lurks Behind the Jack-O-Lantern – Health Benefits of the Pumpkin

Fall is here and with the turning of leaves a new batch of beautiful gourds and colorful squashes fill the shelves of our grocery stores.

With Halloween looming around the corner, pumpkin patches are popping up all around the neighborhood.

My five year old came home beaming yesterday. She held a sweet little pumpkin, and was ready to carve it into a masterpiece.

My husband smiled and said, “It’s a sweet one so you can make a pumpkin pie.”

Ah yes, pumpkin pie!

Although I grew up in France, I learned to enjoy this delicate American classic. Mom is originally from Texas, and we always celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving with fellow Americans who lived in Paris.

Pumpkin pie is a holiday staple but there are many more delicious uses for pumpkin than good old fashioned pumpkin pie.  Indeed, nestled inside the Jack-O-Lantern is a  delicious and highly nutritious food with many healing properties.

Pumpkin is a fruit of the cucurbits family of climbing or trailing vines, which includes the squash, pumpkin, cucumber, gourd, watermelon, and cantaloupe.

The name pumpkin comes from the Greek name “pepon” which means large melon, though the fruit itself is native to Central America.

Native Americans left noting to waste, and had many uses for pumpkin and its seeds; mostly for food and medicine.  They also dried long strips of pumpkin to make sturdy, yet pliable, mats for their homes.

And yes, pumpkin does make a delicious pie!

The origins of the pumpkin pie date back to colonial times.  Colonists would slice off the top of a pumpkin, remove the seeds and fill it with milk, honey and spices.  Then, after placing the cap back on, they baked in hot ashes until the inside was soft and all the flavors blended together.  They enjoyed this delicious treat fresh out of the skin.

Pumpkins are 90 percent water, and the remaining 1o percent is brimming with essential vitamins and minerals for good health.

Here a just a few health benefits of pumpkin:

High in Beta Carotene

The bright orange color of the rind and flesh is a dead giveaway to its high concentration of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Beta-carotene – or carotenoids, assist in staving off the free radicals, and helps in preventing premature aging, cardiovascular diseases and other infections.

Rich Source of Vitamins A & C, Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc

These nutrients present in pumpkin offer countless health benefits.  Vitamin A contributes to healthy eyes and gives your immune system a boost.  While Vitamin C, also good for your immune system, promotes the production of collagen and leads to healthy skin.
Magnesium is particularly important for women as it contributes to healthy bones, and helps prevent osteoporosis.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds, also called Pepitas, are a staple food in Mexican cuisine.

They are a rich source of protein, with approximately 7 grams per ounce.  This makes pumpkin seeds a wonderful component of a vegetarian or vegan diet,  They can be consumed on their own as a simple snack, or tossed into granola, salads or sprinkled over soups.

Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of phytosterols, plant based essentially fatty acids, the health benefits of which are numerous.  The composition of these fatty acids are the same as good cholesterol, and they help in reducing the blood cholesterol levels.

EFA’s also promote healthy skin and improved brain power.

Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw or roasted in the oven. You can sprinkle a little sea sot before roasting.  Make sure to keep oven temperature to a maximum of 350 to preserve the nutrients in the seeds.

Pumpkin seeds are the only seed that is alkaline-forming. This alkaline-forming property is most commonly found in dark leafy greens.  They help balance blood Ph levels by reducing the acidity and creating an environment resistant to disease.

If you have trouble getting to sleep you’ll be happy to know that pumpkin seeds are high in L-tryptophan which promotes sound sleep and has been shown to aid in fighting depression.

And if all of this is not enough to convince you that pumpkin seeds are packed with goodness, they have also been shown to work as a natural anti-inflammatory in patients suffering from arthritis.

Be careful though, these little seeds pack quite a punch with about 559 calories per 100 grams!

This fall, as you settle down with your little ones to carve a spooky face into your pumpkin, remember to save the wonderful flesh and seeds.

You can roast the seeds for a delicious crunchy treat, and come up with all sorts of delicious recipes for the nutritious flesh.

With its sweet, somewhat nutty flavor, pumpkin is a wonderful food to add to salads, soups and deserts.

The simplest way to cook a pumpkin, if you are not carving it for Halloween, is to bake it whole in the oven.  Heat the oven to 350 and bake for about an hour.  After your pumpkin has cooled, remove the seeds and scoop out the tender flesh.  Add it to quinoa with green beans and garlic for a scrumptious vegetarian dish.

You can also mash the cooked pumpkin with potatoes, or add it to your pancake batter with a dash of your favorite spices for a sinfully delicious, but oh so healthy breakfast!

What’s your favorite way to savor a pumpkin?

Scrumptious Tid-Bit
Pumpkin Nutritional Facts:*
(1 cup cooked, plain)

Calories  ………………… 49
Protein ………………….. 2 grams
Carbohydrates ……….. 12 grams
Dietary Fiber ………….. 3 grams
Calcium …………………. 97 mg
Iron ……………………….. 1.4 mg
Magnesium …………….. 22 mg
Potassium ………………. 564 mg
Zinc ……………………….. 1 mg
Selenium ………………… 0.50 mg
Vitamin C ……………….. 12 mg
Niacin …………………….. 1 mg
Folate …………………….. 21 mcg
Vitamin ………………….. A 2650 IU
Vitamin ………………….. E 3 mg

*University of Illinois, “Pumkins and More”

About Valerie 

Valerie Remy-Milora is the mother of 3 amazing girls, an author, public speaker, coach and founder of Scrumptious Moms. She is passionate about empowering moms to embrace self care and live a vibrant, joyful life with their loved ones. A health and fitness nut, she is an advocate for chemical-free living, real food and GMO labeling. She believes in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

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