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The Healthy Pumpkin

By Paul Rothbart

Very popular in the fall and especially around the holidays, pumpkins are members of the cucurbitaceae family along with the squashes. Pumpkins have a great flavor and can be used in a number of ways. The seeds are also edible and when dried, make a tasty snack. Pumpkins can flavor muffins, breads, and coffee. Then of course, there's pumpkin pie, a Thanksgiving staple. No question, most people love pumpkins. But beyond their wonderful taste, they have many health benefits and thus are an excellent food to include in the diet. Here are some of the ways that pumpkins can boost your health. 

Protects Eyesight

Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all nutrients that have been associated with maintaining good eyesight. Aging adults are at risk for macular degeneration and cataracts. Theses three nutrients help prevent both of the conditions. Cataracts and Vitamin A deficiency are two of the leading causes of blindness. Pumpkin also contains fair amounts of Vitamins C and E, antioxidants which fight free radicals that can damage eye cells. 

Lowers Risk of Chronic Diseases

Chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, are often caused when free radicals in the body create a condition called oxidative stress. The antioxidants in pumpkin, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, neutralize the free radicals. This prevents them from damaging cells and greatly lowers the risk of chronic disease. Studies have shown that these antioxidants also can protect the skin from sun damage and skin cancer. 

Boosts the Immune System

The vitamins and antioxidants in pumpkins can boost immune system health. The body uses the beta-carotene in pumpkins to make Vitamin A that studies have shown helps fight infections and strengthen the immune system. Vitamin A deficiencies tend to weaken the immune system. Pumpkins also contain Vitamin C which has been shown to increase white blood cell count and help the cells work more efficiently. Other nutrients that help the immune system and are found in pumpkins are folate, iron and Vitamin E.

May Help Weight Loss

Pumpkins are loaded with nutrition, but are low in calories. A cup of pumpkin contains fewer than 50 calories and is mostly water. As a carb, pumpkins aid weight loss because you can eat more of it, thus filling up, while getting a reasonable amount of calories. Pumpkins contain fiber as well. This can help to curb the appetite and the need for in between meal snacks.

Pumpkins are a delicious and versatile food loved by many. You can enjoy their flavor in a morning coffee and muffin, or for dessert in a tasty pie. They will also provide excellent nutrition with low calories and benefit overall health. Don't wait until Thanksgiving. Have some pumpkin all year round.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Coral Springs, Fla.

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