Pumpkins do so much more than decorate our mantels, provide a fun family fall activity, or spookify our front stoops; they're one of the most fascinating, nutritious and versatile autumnal produce out there. Here are some reasons why pumpkins squash all other squashes:
1. Their flesh is super nutritious.
Pumpkins are known for providing a megadose of Vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help keep our immune system strong, our skin and teeth healthy and our eyesight good, particularly in low-light. They're also a strong source of potassium, which is helpful in balancing ourelectrolytes after a heavy workout, keeping us hydrated, helping our muscles function their best, lowering blood pressure and supporting healthy digestion.
2. They're not a one-size-fits-all kinda squash.
The weight of a pumpkin can actually range from less than a pound to over 2,000 pounds! In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records reports the heaviest pumpkin weighed in at 2,032 pounds in October, 2013. Imagine lugging 2,000 pounds home from the pickin' patch.
3. There's hardly a part of them that can be wasted.
With their flowers being edible, their seeds roastable and their flesh puree-able, it seems the only part of the pumpkin that we CAN'T consume is their stem.
4. They have successfully been grown on every continent on the world, short of Antarctica.
That's pretty understandable. And impressive.
5. Their seeds could make us happier. (Not just because they're delicious roasted.)
Pumpkin seeds, the low-fat and protein-rich center of the pumpkin, are loaded with tryptophan. Tryptophan, an amino acid, gets converted to serotonin, aka the "happy hormone," which could ease depression. Tryptophan also helps us sleep quicker, deeper and longer — once it gets converted into serotonin and then melotonin, also known as the "sleep hormone." And who isn't happier when they get more sleep?
6. They're a figure-friendly food.
What's amazing is that there's only 100 calories in a cup of pumpkin. And, considering that pumpkin provides seven grams of fiber per cup, this means pumpkin will help you feel fuller for a long time, with very few calories. And calling pumpkin low fat is an understatement. Look on the back of your pumpkin puree can label — a serving of pumpkin puree contains zero fat.
7. You can juice them!
Just wash the pumpkin well, peel off the thick skin, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp attached to them (roast them later!), cut into small chunks and send through your juicer! Great to juice alongside carrots, apple and ginger. Or great to juice alone and mix with coconut water and pumpkin pie spice.
8. They've been said to improve athletic performance, by decreasing fatigue.
They also make great medicine balls if you're short on athletic equipment.
9. Their canned versions aren't necessarily inferior.
You can easily (and affordably) buy canned pumpkin puree (not the "pumpkin pie mix" which is loaded with sugar) at most grocery stores. Unlike a lot of canned vegetable versions of fresh vegetables, eating canned pumpkin isn't reason to think you've squashed all of a pumpkin's nutritional value. In fact, most canned pumpkins are packed and sold with NO additives or preservatives. They pack nothing but pure pumpkin puree in there.
10. They're berries.
Shocked? Me, too.