It’s that time of year again—carve a goofy face on a big orange pumpkin to delight visitors and add an autumnal air to the front porch. But did you know that pumpkins are good for more than just your next craft project? They’re a delicious seasonal addition to a wholesome diet, and they’ve got many uses beyond the traditional pumpkin pie.
In fact, Native Americans are responsible for the surge in popularity of the pumpkin. Many early settlers would have starved to death without the pumpkins given to them by the local tribes. Because they store well and are very nutritious, pumpkins played a key role in the founding and growth of America. The pilgrims learned how to turn a pumpkin into a variety of delectable dishes. They also enjoyed the many health benefits that followed.
Why is Pumpkin Good for You?
- Metabolic Support: Pumpkin is a great supporter of your full-body energy system—your metabolism. The oil from a pumpkin (and especially its seeds) does a great job of relieving the stress response. This helps reduce the incidence of stress-related illnesses.
- Reduces Inflammation: The same pumpkin compounds that de-stress your body also reduce inflammation and atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries because of plaque buildup).
- Beta Carotene: The same nutrient that turns carrots and sweet potatoes orange are (not surprisingly) abundant in pumpkins! Beta-carotene has been shown to have an important impact on the development of cancer. It may help slow or even halt the mutated cells’ reproduction.
- Beta-Cryptoxanthin: This sometimes hard-to-get nutrient is vital for joint health and reducing pain, keeping our bodies running smoothly. Pumpkin is one of the foods richest in beta-cryptoxanthin. Those who get enough of this powerhouse nutrient are much less likely to suffer from painful diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Those are just a few of the great things about pumpkin. So if these orange fruits (yes, they’re fruits!) are so good for you, do you just scoop out your next Jack-o-lantern and munch it by the spoonful? Well, not really. Much like popping corn, carving pumpkins were bred to be great for—you guessed it—carving. Not eating. If you’re looking for a delicious pumpkin you can cook up, here’s what you need to know.
How Do You Choose Good Pumpkins?
- Look for pumpkins labeled for use in pies or “sugar pumpkins.” Some of the most common ones include Autumn Gold, Cinderella, and Baby Pam.
- Pumpkins between 4 and 7 pounds are the ones you want, as they’ll be the most flavorful and smooth.
- Green stems indicate a recently picked pumpkin, so opt for those rather than the hard, bark-like brown stem when possible for maximum freshness.
Pumpkins behave very much like squash, so once you’ve chosen a winner, prepare it as you would a squash—bake, steam, or chunk it into soup! The only thing limiting your pumpkin is your own creativity! If you’re a fan, collect the seeds and bake them up for a delicious and nutritious snack.