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Pumpkin: The Beta-Carotene King

Turns out, pumpkins offer us a lot more benefit than just some fun carving material! Though we only tend to think about pumpkins around Halloween, they provide so many health benefits that it would be a great idea to incorporate them as much as possible to our regular diets. They’re good for our eyes, can help reduce the risk of stroke, and much more.

Pumpkins provide an exceptional amount of carotenes, which not only give pumpkins their orange color, but have a very strong protective effect against many cancers, and in particular lung cancer. Pumpkins also have phenolic acids: chemicals that bind to potential carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in the body and help prevent them from being absorbed—one of the reasons pumpkins are so great at helping to prevent cancer.

In addition to cancer, carotenes help to prevent heart disease and type II diabetes. In fact, pumpkins are so high in beta-carotene that a half cup of pumpkin has more than 16mg, which is 160–260% of the recommended daily amount. The carotenoids that pumpkins provide also act as antioxidants in the body, and antioxidants help to neutralize harmful free radicals. A diet that is high in antioxidants helps to prevent many of the diseases that are linked with aging such as wrinkles, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.

Also provided are some lesser-known carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, which are particularly good at finding and neutralizing free radicals. These carotenoids are essential for good eye health. They’re found in the lens of our eyes, and studies show that diets high in these two carotenoids help to prevent cataracts from forming and lower the risk of macular degeneration. The richer the color of the pumpkin, or the darker the orange color is, the higher the concentration of carotenes will be.

Pumpkins are also a good source of vitamins B1, B6, C, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, and fiber. In fact, a half cup of pumpkin provides three grams of fiber, which is six percent of the daily value. A half cup of pumpkin also provides almost two milligrams of iron—about twenty percent of the recommended amount for men, and thirteen percent for women. Furthermore, a cup of pumpkin provides nearly 600mg of potassium, which is much more than a banana would provide. This is important because most Americans consume an excessive amount of sodium and tend to be deficient in potassium. Therefore, the high levels of potassium that pumpkin provides helps to maintain a sodium to potassium ratio that is important for healthy blood pressure and water balance. High levels of potassium have also been shown in several large studies to help prevent the occurrence of strokes. Lastly, because pumpkins are so high in potassium, it makes pumpkin a great food for athletes, helping to replenish potassium that is lost in sweat. Because pumpkins are prone to quick decay, select pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size and that have no signs of damage or decay.Raw Vegan Pumpkin PieCrust
  • 1 1/2 cups almonds
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla or water (I often need 2)
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