I know it’s November, but pumpkins are still on my mind. One year for Halloween, I was a scarecrow with a pumpkin head. I went around with jack-o-lantern on my head saying “trick-or-treat!” I remember the strong smell of pumpkin rubbing into my hair and my face. It stuck with me for quite some time. Who knows? Maybe the skin treatment of pumpkin had health benefits, but today I’d rather share the nutritional power-house that pumpkins can be when we eat them.
Loaded with Vitamin A (200% our daily value in 1 cup), this squash will encourage healthy vision, a strong immune system, and proper cell growth. It is low in calories and high in fiber. Pumpkin also gives a good showing for vitamin C, E, and many other vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin has the nutritional make-up to support a healthy heart, improve blood pressure, reduce formation of kidney stones, protect against certain cancers, and even improve fertility in women of child-bearing age.
Pumpkin can be prepared so many ways. Importantly for us, it can be prepared in a soft, easy-to-chew texture. It is a healthy way to add moisture to freshly baked goods, replacing oil or butter. You can make your own pumpkin puree instead of buying the canned variety for more nutritional value. You can use the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, or try the smaller and sweeter varieties.
Your total diet and overall eating pattern is what is most important to your health. No one food is a cure-all. But pumpkin carries its weight in nutritional benefits and is a wise addition to almost any diet. Try to find ways other than pie this season to incorporate pumpkin into your diet. I am truly grateful for the abundance this earth has to offer. If we look to the foods God and nature have ordained for us to eat, our health will benefit from the variety and richness of the earth.
Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD