Sure, pumpkins can seem spooky in their state, but don’t be fooled— they’re actually one of the most nutritious fruits out there. Loaded with antioxidants and disease-fighting vitamins, these gourds aren’t just for carving, making them a bonafide Glamourgirlz superfood.

Pump Up the Pumpkin—Why They’re Super

Pumpkins’ bright orange color may make them a good substitute for traffic cones, but the real power behind their hue is , a that is in the body. Known for its immune-boosting powers, beta-carotene is essential for and has also been linked to preventing coronary heart disease . Berson, E.L, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, MA. International Ophthalmology Clinics, 2000 Fall;40(4):93-111. . Tavani, A., La Vecchia, C. Istituto di Recerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Milan, Italy. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, 1999 Oct;53(9):409-16.. But there’s no need to choose fresh to get the benefits of pumpkin. One cup of has seven grams of fiber and three grams of protein— even more than the — and contains only 80 calories and one gram of fat. Plus, canned pumpkin is packed with vitamins and provides over 50 percent of the daily value of , which may reduce the risk for some types of cancer . Nimptsch, K., Rohrmann, S., Kaaks, R.. Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 May;91(5):1348-58. Epub 2010 Mar 24.. Still, the real treasure is in the seeds. (about 140 seeds) is packed with protein, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Studies suggest pumpkin seeds provide a number of health benefits— such as blocking the enlargement of the prostate gland, lowering the risk of , and helping to prevent depression  Tsai, Ys., Yong, Y.C., Cheng, J.T., et al. Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Urology, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan Taiwan. Urologia Internationalis, 2006;77(3):269-74. . Suphakarn, V.S., Yamnon, C., Ngunboonsri, P. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1987 Jan;45(1):115-21.  Suphiphat, V., Morjaroen, N., Pukboonme, I., et al. Division of Experimental Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, 1993 Sep;76(9):487-93. . Thomson, J., Rankin, H., Ashcroft, G.W. Psychological Medicine, 1982 Nov;12(4):731-51.. Plus, they contain high levels of , which research suggests can reduce cholesterol and even help prevent some types of cancers Ryan, E., Glavin, K., O’Connor, T.P., et al. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 2007 Sep;62(3):85-91. Epub 2007 Jun 27. . Ling, W.H., Jones, P.J. School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University at macdonald Campus, Ste-Anee-de-Bellevue, PQ, Canada. Life Sciences, 1995;57(3):195-206.. So get scooping!

Get Like Peter—Your Action Plan

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, that is. There are plenty of ways to sneak pumpkin into any meal—whether it’s the seeds or the guts, canned, cooked, or raw, or in a main dish versus a chocolate chip cookie. Canned pumpkin can be added to almost anything and (voila!) out comes the perfect autumn treat. For a hot breakfast filled with fiber, try adding canned pumpkin to oatmeal. And take note: if a recipe calls for canned pumpkin, . Placing a small, cleaned-out pumpkin in the microwave for six minutes will make it easy to scoop out the insides. And save those seeds—they’re easy to roast. After removing seeds from the pumpkin’s inner cavity (like, say, after carving it for Halloween!), wipe them off with a paper towel. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with , and lightly roast at 160-170 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Roasting for a short time at a low temperature helps to . While there’s no such thing as too much pumpkin, eating a lot can actually give skin a “pumpkin-like glow.” Too much beta-carotene isn’t toxic, but excessive consumption can cause a yellowish discoloration of the skin called . Don’t worry, though—turning into a pumpkin after midnight is still only for the fairy tales—the skin discoloration is harmless and can be easily reversed . Nishimura, Y., Ishii, N., Sugita, Y., et al. Department of Dermatology, Yokohama City University School of Medicine, Japan. The Journal of Dermatology, 1998 Oct;25(10):685-7..

Superfood Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Parfait

Pumpkin Pie Parfait

What You'll Need:

1/4 cup plain pumpkin purée (fresh or canned) 1/2 large frozen banana 1 to 1 1/2 cups almond milk 1 tablespoon chia seeds 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Optional Toppings:

Crumbled graham crackers Peanut butter (or any other nut butter) Cinnamon What to Do:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender, adding the almond milk as you go until reaching the desired consistency.
  2. Pour into glass and top with desired toppings!

Originally published on October 25, 2011. Updated September 2013.

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