It’s pumpkin season! In spite of a vocal minority who complain about the appearance of pumpkin-flavored-everything at the grocery store, many of us look forward to the annual return of this festive fall flavor. Americans spent nearly $500 million dollars on pumpkin products in 2018, and companies are constantly figuring out ways to get on the pumpkin spice bandwagon.
Love it or hate it, pumpkin season is here to stay. Why not make the most of it by reaping the surprising number of health benefits this stupendous squash provides? Let’s take a closer look at the healing power of pumpkin.
Pumpkin Seeds: Tiny Package, Big Nutritional Punch
Planning to carve some pumpkins for Halloween this year? Make sure you save the seeds! In addition to tasting great, pumpkin seeds are chock full of nutrients. These include:
- Magnesium, a mineral that plays a role in several critical body functions. Adequate magnesium is essential for bone and heart health.
- Omega-3 and other essential fatty acids, which help keep skin looking healthy and are also important for brain and heart health.*
- Fiber, which keeps your digestive system humming. Dietary fiber may also help support the heart, and it can play a role in maintaining an already healthy body weight.
- Zinc, a mineral that helps the immune system. Zinc is also necessary for the production of protein and DNA in the body, and it’s crucial for fetal development.
Not sure how best to enjoy pumpkin seeds? One of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare pumpkin seeds is to roast them. Simply spread seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and season with salt. (You can also toss them in a bit of melted butter or olive oil first.) In an oven preheated to 350 degrees, bake seeds for about 20 minutes or until they’re golden brown, giving the baking sheet a shake halfway through to prevent burning. Let the seeds cool, then enjoy!
Hulled pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are extremely versatile. They can be tossed into salads and sprinkled onto soup. Or you can use them to whip up a batch of this grain-free granola, courtesy of the Wildcrafter, Tieraona Low Dog, MD. A bowl of this hearty granola is a beautifully beneficial way to start your day.
You can also use pumpkin seeds to create your own healthy flour for baking. You can replace some of the flour in most recipes to add a nutritional kick!
Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice
Ever wondered what it is about pumpkin spice that makes it so irresistible? It turns out that “pumpkin spice” is actually a blend of several different spices, some of which have powerful medicinal properties. Here are two of them.
This superstar of the spice world does a lot more than just make your kitchen smell amazing when you cook or bake with it. Cinnamon has been shown to help maintain already healthy blood sugar levels.*
Cinnamon can also support a healthy inflammatory response.*
When considering how to incorporate cinnamon into your diet, think outside the box, or bowl. Cinnamon can be sprinkled over apple slices, stirred into yogurt, or even dashed into a cup of Wildcrafter coffee.
Another common component in pumpkin spice is ginger. This plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Ginger’s Sanskrit name, vishwabhesai, means “universal medicine” and refers to this root’s capacity to support many parts of the body.
One of ginger’s most popular uses is relieving occasional nausea and supporting digestive health. A warming mug of ginger tea after a big meal can help alleviate that too-full, bloated feeling. We like to keep a knob of ginger root in the freezer so we can slice or grate some whenever we need it.
For those prone to motion sickness, a handful of ginger chews in your purse or backpack could come in super handy next time you feel queasy in the car. (This is also true for women who are pregnant and struggling with morning sickness.)*
Another one of ginger’s superpowers is its ability to support the immune system. Try adding some fresh ginger to your chicken soup for added immune support.
Ready, Set, Spice!
Now that you know just how beneficial pumpkin is to your health, you can indulge your pumpkin spice cravings without shame. Cut yourself a big ol’ slab of pumpkin bread, make some healthy pumpkin seed granola, brew up a cup of Wildcrafter coffee, and enjoy the flavor of the season before it’s gone (until next year).
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