It’s autumn, which means it’s pumpkin-takeover-season. We’re talking pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, and even pumpkin spice Cheerios at select grocery stores. Fortunately, our obsession with pumpkin is completely justified. It’s actually considered a superfood — as long as you don’t drown it in sugar and cream and other unhealthy additives. There are plenty of reasons why pumpkin is so good for you, but here’s the top five:
1. Pumpkin has a ton of fiber, which keeps you fuller for longer and keeps your digestive system functioning well. Roasted pumpkin seeds have 1.7 grams of fiber per serving, while mashed pumpkin has 3 grams of fiber.
2. Pumpkin contains two times the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which helps improve your eyesight. Not only does vitamin A promote good vision, it also slows the degeneration of your retinas that can lead to poor vision and blindness. But vitamin A isn’t just beneficial for your eyes — it also keeps your skin, teeth and bones healthy.
3. Pumpkin helps lower your blood pressure. Yes, you heard that correctly. The pumpkin oils contained in mashed pumpkin contain phytoestrogens, which are molecular compounds that prevent high blood pressure. Lower blood pressure is important because it keeps your heart and cardiovascular system healthy.
4. Pumpkin helps you sleep better. Pumpkin contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body create serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy and relaxed and, more importantly, sleepy. This same amino acid is found in turkey, which could be the reason why you’re so sleepy after a large turkey-and-pumpkin-pie Thanksgiving dinner.
5. Pumpkin is heart-healthy. This goes back to the first health benefit of pumpkin — all the fiber. Studies show that people who include plenty of fiber in their diets have a lower risk of heart disease compared to people who eat a low-fiber diet.
Obviously there are many health benefits to pumpkin, but these reasons don’t even include the tasty reasons to love pumpkin. There’s a reason why people include it in so many recipes and beverages. It’s absolutely delicious. Fortunately, even though pumpkin is a staple ingredient in the fall, it’s also widely available year-round.
Autumn is the prime time for pumpkin baked goods and recipes, but you can easily find canned pumpkin at your local grocery store in the baking or canned vegetable aisles. Although it doesn’t taste as good as fresh pumpkin from a local pumpkin patch, it’s still a pretty convenient and cheap ingredient.
However, most restaurants and coffee shops only carry pumpkin-flavored items for a short while in the fall. So take advantage of all the pumpkin-themed menu items this season. They’ll be gone before you know it.