We are now peak pumpkin season. For many, the pumpkin is the symbol of Halloween, while others may primarily associate it with Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (guilty). The truth is, the humble pumpkin is much better for you than you might think. Included amongst your diet (and before you go topping up your Starbucks card, pumpkin-flavoured treats sadly don't carry the same benefits) there are many ways in which it can increase your physical and mental health - it just means, much like carving your prized pumpkin, you have to get creative. Here are five main ways eating more of it will improve your health.
It helps fight off illnesses
Flu season is fast approaching, but the pumpkin contains big doses of Vitamins A and C to boost your immune system and ward off colds and viruses.
It gives you sharper vision
Move over carrots; pumpkins are as equal a power food when it comes to helping you improve your vision. Beta carotene, the antioxidant which gives pumpkins their bright orange colour, converts to vitamin A in your body. Just 100g of pumpkin can provide you with an astonishing 170% of your vitamin A requirement. Pumpkins also have long-term benefits for your eyes, as they contain two very important antioxidants; Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help prevent cataracts, and can possibly slow macular degeneration.
It can help protect your heart
When carving those Halloween pumpkins, rather than throwing out those seeds, collect them! Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols which are said to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) in your body, and can benefit you - and your heart - long-term if incorporated into a healthy, low-fat diet.
Eating pumpkin can boost your mood
Not only are pumpkin seeds good for your heart, but they can also boost your mood. They are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps create the mood-boosting chemical serotonin. Serotonin is also important in the regulation of sleep, so pumpkins can also help you get a good night’s rest. Load up on the pumpkin and just maybe, getting up for work on a Monday morning may seem less of a chore (we can't promise this though!).
And it's great for your skin
And if all that hasn’t done enough to convince you, pumpkins are really good for skin protection. The antioxidant in pumpkins, Beta-carotene, which helps with your eyes also protects your skin from harmful UV rays.
So instead of having that second slice of pumpkin pie or drowning yourself in Pumpkin flavoured coffee. Try being more adventurous with pumpkin; add chunks of it to soup, roast it for dinner or blending it into a delicious smoothie. You could even sprinkle pumpkin seeds over your morning cereal, or munch on them as a healthy snack throughout the day.
Main photograph: Unsplash
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