Pumpkin: Spicing Up Festivities and the Heart

Pumpkins are delicious, seasonal, and are spicing up the world of flavors. There’s pumpkin in coffee, beer, croissants, bagels, and even the makers of potato chips are joining the bandwagon. While most pumpkin-flavored treats shouldn’t be consumed on a daily, pumpkin itself is one of the healthiest food items during fall and yuletide seasons. With that said, here’s why it’s okay to indulge in this superfood:

1. It lowers blood pressure

Pumpkin oil is full of phytoestrogens, and the vegetable itself contains magnesium — an enzyme known to lower hypertension. When researchers fed mice a diet supplement with pumpkin oil, it reduced their systolic and diastolic blood pressure within 12 weeks.

2. It helps you sleep at night

Pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that contributes to feeling sleepy and drowsy after a feastful Thanksgiving dinner. Tryptophan also helps the body make serotonin, also known as the feel-good neurotransmitter that enables you to relax. Not only do pumpkin seeds promote much better sleep, but the serotonin will also enhance your mood.

3. It keeps your eyesight sharp

A cup of pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Pumpkin is responsible for the slow decline of retinal function and degenerative eye diseases that can lead to blindness. Aside from promoting good vision, vitamin A also plays a role in maintaining our skin, teeth, and bones healthy.

4. You’ll feel fuller longer

Delicious mashed pumpkin only has 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber, while pumpkin seeds contain 1.7 grams of dietary fiber per ounce. Fiber helps you feel fuller for longer periods, keeping your appetite at bay and making sure you eat less overall.

5. It helps with weight loss

Since pumpkins help us feel fuller, it only makes sense that it aids with weight loss, too. Pumpkin is an ideal vegetable for weight loss since it’s low in calories and high in dietary fiber. A diet rich in fiber helps people eat less, and thereby, shed pounds.

6. It reduces the risk of cancer

Pumpkins contain beta-carotene, which according to the National Cancer Institute, is an antioxidant that may play a role in cancer prevention. Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals that cause cancer. Pumpkin is one of the highest sources of beta-carotene, delivering about 17 mg per cup.

7. It promotes a healthier heart

A pumpkin’s fiber content can also protect one of the strongest muscles in our body — the heart. A study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that those who ate a diet high in fiber had a lower risk of coronary heart disease at 40 percent, in comparison to those who ate a low-fiber diet. A more recent study found that women who ate a high-fiber diet had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to women who ate a diet low in fiber.

Pumpkins decorate front steps and are eventually carved as jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and Thanksgiving. After the holidays, this healthy, anti-cancer, good-for-the-heart food is often left to rot in the trash. But now you know that this humble vegetable has many uses — from helping prevent cancer to keeping the heart healthy.

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