Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkin Pie in a Glass
More than just a decorative Halloween candle-holder or a pie filling to be eaten only once a year, pumpkin is one of the most nutritional foods available year round. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and low in fat, both the flesh and seeds of the pumpkin provide many health-boosting nutrients.  Check out some of the nutrients in pumpkin:

•    Alpha-carotene
•    Beta-carotene
•    Fiber
•    Vitamins C and E
•    Potassium
•    Magnesium
•    Pantothenic acid

The alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are potent antioxidants found in pumpkin and are pro-vitamin A carotenoids, meaning the body converts them to vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes healthy vision and ensures proper immune function. The beta-carotene in pumpkin may also reverse skin damage caused by the sun and act as an anti-inflammatory. Alpha-carotene is thought to slow the aging process and also reduce the risk of developing cataracts and prevent tumor growth. Carotenoids also boost immunity and lessen the risk of heart disease.

Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber; one-half cup serving contains 5 grams of fiber. Fiber helps reduce bad cholesterol levels, protect the body against heart disease, control blood sugar levels, promote healthy digestion, and plays a role in weight loss.

The vitamin C in pumpkin boosts immunity, reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, and regulates cholesterol levels. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin E which promotes healthy skin by protecting the body from sun damage and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and certain cancers.

--Amy Goodson, registered dietitian for the Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine Program

Pumpkin Pie in a Glass Recipe

        1 1/2 cups skim milk
        1 box (1 oz) instant sugar-free butterscotch pudding mix
        1 cup pure canned pumpkin
        1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
        1/4 tsp ground ginger
        1 1/2 cups fat free whipped topping
        4 oz gingersnap cookies, crushed
        8 cinnamon sticks, optional
        24 pomegranate seeds, optional

In a medium bowl, beat milk and pudding mix with a handheld mixer for 2 minutes. Add pumpkin and beat for another minute. Add pumpkin pie spice and ground ginger, and beat for 10 more seconds. Using a spatula, fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping.

In each of 8 shallow dessert cups, place 2 tablespoons of the gingersnap crumbs and top with 1/2 cup of the pumpkin mixture. Top each with a dollop of whipped topping, and garnish with any remaining gingersnap crumbs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and pomegranate seeds, if desired. Makes 8 servings

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 116, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 0, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 242mg, Carbohydrates: 23g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 3g

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