Leaves are falling, the air is crisp and everywhere you turn, mums and hay bales decorate yards and front porches. With autumn in full swing and Thanksgiving coming up, the grocery store shelves are heavy with root vegetables and squashes, especially pumpkins. In addition to the seasonal appeal, pumpkin contains nutrients that are good for numerous body systems, including:
Vitamin A, a vitamin naturally found in many foods, is important for a type of cell growth that helps you see better and have healthier skin and fewer wrinkles. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains about twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for most adults.
Swathed in beautiful orange from beta carotene—an essential nutrient that converts into vitamin A—pumpkin reduces inflammation, particularly in people with asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects more than 25 million people in the U.S. Eating pumpkin regularly could make breathing easier for some people with asthma.
Give your heart to pumpkin because it’s good for the heart. The same vitamin A that may reduce wrinkles also reduces cholesterol buildup in the arteries. Lower cholesterol protects the heart and eases its workload. Eating more pumpkin may therefore contribute to a longer, healthier—and less wrinkled—life.
After eating so much of the bright orange squash, you may be feeling a bit full. Don’t worry, pumpkin is high in fiber, which helps your digestion. Fiber also helps grab and hold onto fat and cholesterol, preventing your body from absorbing it. This keeps your intestines clean and healthy.
As you can see, pumpkins have many health benefits and can be so much more than just a porch ornament. Head to your local supermarket, pumpkin patch or roadside farm stand and pick one up for your health this autumn.
Jessica C. Taylor, PhD, is a cardiovascular physiologist who manages projects for a contract biomedical research organization. She also has asthma and enjoys pumpkin to help ease her breathing and keep her from looking her age.