A 30-Day Journey Exploring a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle – Day 24
As I walked around the neighborhood last night I described yesterday, Day 23, fresh pumpkins, any size, were all around on display in various front yards. It looked beautiful and colorful among the fall flowers and fallen leaves. Indeed, the lovely Fall season is in full swing. While walking along and enjoying the sights, I imagined smelling the delicious all-pumpkin goodies: pies, coffee flavors, breads, soups, cookies, all kinds of other fancy deserts, . . .
This morning, the Mayo Clinic posted an article in their newsletter section: Healthy Lifestyle: Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Dietician Katherine Zeratsky, R.Dl, L.D. responded to a question: “I’ve heard that canned pumpkin is healthier than fresh pumpkin. Is that true?”
My gut response was: “Of course not. Anything canned lowers the nutrient value considerably,” so I thought because I rarely use canned food. It usually has a higher salt content, aside from diminished nutritional value.
Reading her article and further researching about pumpkin and its nutritional value I must admit: “I was wrong!” As K. Zeratsky states that overall, fresh foods have a higher nutrient content than do cooked or canned foods. But in this case, both fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin are packed with nutrients.
Nutritional Values and Health Benefit of Pumpkin
Pumpkin is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including large amounts of fiber and 100% of the daily vitamin A requirement.
Pumpkin also provides lots of vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese. Smaller but significant amounts of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus also are present according to Dr. Mercola’s Natural Health Newsletter.
The bright orange color indicates a rich content of a particularly beneficial phytonutrient: carotene. Carotene converts to vitamin A in the body to give a tremendous boost of antioxidants.
We know the health benefits of antioxidants. They help prevent heart disease, cancer, and many of the degenerating signs of aging.
Vitamin A is a must for good vision. It especially helps to protect the retina of the eye from macular degeneration, a feared condition as we get older. It could lead to blindness.
Pay attention to the labels of canned pumpkin products. They may be labeled as “pumpkin,” “100 percent pure pumpkin” or “pumpkin pie mix.” Canned pumpkin pie mix — which some recipes call for — can be much higher in calories than regular canned pumpkin.
Since I love pumpkin year-round, I found in my pantry a few cans:
- 100% Pure Pumpkin: All natural, no preservatives, 50 Calories per ½ cup; 5 mg. Sodium, 110 mg. or 5%, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 3g. What jumped at me: Vitamin A 250%, Vitamin C 4%, Iron 6%, Calcium 2%.
- Organic 100% Pumpkin: a slight difference in nutrient composition, though may not be that significant: 40 Calories per ½ cup; Sodium 10mg or 1% which was the most significant difference of 4%; Vitamin A 280% – slightly higher while Iron was 4%, slightly lower.
Caution: the differences could be in the nutrient assessment tools used by different assessment companies.
- Pumpkin Mix: Naturally the ready mix is higher on Calories, 120 per ½ cup. Note: the label shows 1/3 cup=80 to indicate lower calories; that’s when label reading is often confusing. Sodium content was equal to the 100% Pure, non-organic Pumpkin.
You can see that the the nutrient value does not vary considerably among the three types of cans. If you buy the 100% pure, no preservative added can or non-preservative added mix, you benefit from all the fabulous nutrients.
Pumpkin Seeds – The Nutrient Treasure Snacks
When carving a fresh pumpkin, most people would discard the seeds and may not know their high nutritional value.
Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as a source of the mineral zinc, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods and are delicious and nutritious. They are an excellent, sugar-free snack. They are a very rich source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and copper; and other minerals including zinc and iron, including a good source of protein.
Note the mineral value of a 1/4 cup (32.25 grams) of seeds and 180 Calories:
- Manganese 74%
- Phosphorus 57%
- Magnesium 48%
- Copper 48%
- Zinc 23%
- Protein 20%
- Iron 16%
Next time you carve a pumpkin, instead of throwing the seeds away, try to roast them.
15-20 minutes when roasting at home and not longer than 20 minutes in a 350 – 375 degree oven to prevent changes in pumpkin seed fats.
Pumpkins aren’t vegetables; they’re fruits. Grown in America for more than 5,000 years, they were an unknown commodity in Europe before Columbus arrived.
Pumpkins are related to cucumbers and cantaloupes and come in large and small varieties.
The health benefits are amazing because of the combination of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that make this plant-based food so unique.
Not only are pumpkins good for your heart, but they also contain compounds like lycopene and carotenoids known to help diminish cancer cells, inhibit diabetes, hypertension, the signs of aging, and prevent macular degeneration.
Pumpkin seeds are great for between-meal nibbling, have significant nutrient values, similar to the rest of the fruit and provide a healthful snacks.
Enjoy the Wonderful Season of Nutritious Abundance!