There’s nothing quite like the first sight of those gigantic orange pumpkins gracing grocery store fronts. The arrival of pumpkins at our neighborhood markets, just as much as the changing color of the leaves, signals that Fall is upon us and that the Holidays are just around the corner.

Before we know it, there are throngs of masked children knocking on our doors and begging for candy. After what seems like the blink of an eye, we start setting up huge table spreads for the entire family and carving up the turkeys for our Thanksgiving meal. The Fall season rushes by us, leaving hardly a moment to stop and consider our health, and especially our diets.

And the whole while, those gigantic pumpkins have been reserved for use as decorations, rather than an edible bounty just brimming with nutritional value. In fact, Pumpkins are much more than flair, and could even be classified with the label of “superfood”!

While the health benefits of pumpkins may be lost on most of the general population, certified Dietitians have been touting them as excellent healthy eating options for years. Pumpkins are highly nutritional as food, since they are simply loaded with vitamins.

Don’t Pass on the Pumpkin!

The top five benefits to eating Pumpkin are:

  • It’s full of vitamin C! Your body needs this power vitamin to ensure proper immune function, to wipe out cell-damaging free radicals, to help prevent cancer and to create collagen which assists in wound and injury recovery.
  • It’s a fiber superstar! Fiber is a great weight loss tool because it helps you feel full, but also decreases cholesterol, decreases the risk of blood clots (protecting against heart disease!) and aids in digestion.
  • It’s a carrier of carotenoids! Carotenoids are powerful agents that protect eye health, help fight against heart disease and may also prevent cancer. Carotenoids work wonders in the fight against aging by shielding your body from cholesterol build-up and inflammation.
  • It’s a potassium powerhouse! Your heart needs potassium to function properly. Potassium plays a major role in the processes that regulate blood pressure.
  • It’s loaded with vitamin E! Your skin craves vitamin E! Vitamin E offers antioxidant properties and works to promote skin health, boasting a variety of anti-aging benefits. Have a sun burn or skin frustration? Vitamin E aids can help!

And don’t forget that the pumpkin seeds also provide you with more than an avenue for consuming additional salt. In reality, there are five main health benefits to eating pumpkin seeds, each of which are quite important for your overall level of health.

Pumpkin seeds are:

  1. Rich in Omega 3 & 6 Essential Fatty Acids.
  2. Contain dietary fiber and protein.
  3. Loaded with minerals essential for health: Phosphorus, Calcium, Magnesium , Copper & Iron, Zinc
  4. Contain healthy fat, which help raise HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol).
  5. Chock full of Vitamins A, B, E and C and Niacin and Amino Acids

But if you’re wondering how to incorporate pumpkins and pumpkin seeds into your diet, forget about the traditional standby of pumpkin pie and start thinking creatively! Try cooked pumpkin or pumpkin seeds in muffins, oatmeal, waffles, soups, pancakes, breads, smoothies, or anything else that needs a little extra dose of nutritional goodness.

You can boil or bake the flesh of a fresh pumpkin, or even take a shortcut (be sure to keep this one a secret), and find it in a can! The benefit of canned pumpkin is that you can enjoy it’s nutritional value (and excellent flavor) year round, but make sure that you’re purchasing 100% pure pumpkin, rather than pumpkin pie filling, which lacks most of the nutrients available, and instead contains heavy amounts of both sugars and spices.

Our favorite recipe for pumpkin seeds is quite simple- roast them with a little salt and olive oil, then eat them as a healthy alternative at snack time. They’re much better for you than buttered popcorn, and offer quite a bit more in terms of nutritional value than cookies. So enjoy your Holiday Season, but don’t forget to do so responsibly by working some pumpkin into your diet!

*This article was authored by Tim Lavelle for Tiny Green Mom.*