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Pumpkin Offers Nutrition, Health Benefits

You may think that pumpkins are only good for Halloween decor or pie filling at Thanksgiving.

However, pumpkin and all winter squash has an impressive number of health benefits and can actually be used year round. Winter squash is high in Vitamin A and beta-carotene, powerful vision antioxidants, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin which are pigments in plants that give them their yellow and reddish color.

Not only are these nutrients helpful in vision, but antioxidants are known for their role in stabilizing free radicals that the body forms as a result of daily metabolic processes. Neutralizing the free radicals stops them from causing damage to cells and tissues of the body that lead to accelerated aging, heart disease, and cancers. Winter squash also is high in Vitamin C and E, which are essential as antioxidants as well as essential in boosting your immune system. The potassium and fiber content in winter squash is also beneficial for protecting against heart disease.

Additionally, winter squash is low in calories and high in water content to help aid in your weight maintenance when included in your diet.

Pumpkin is incredibly versatile and easy to add to your diet year round. Winter squash is available year round, but may be cheaper to purchase in the fall and winter in fresh form. Winter squash can also be found canned or frozen year round. If you purchase fresh squash, it can be stored for 4-5 days in the fridge once cooked. You can also freeze winter squash before or after the cooking process.

To prepare winter squash, you can bake, boil, saute, steam, microwave, or puree. You may notice the color change from a dull orange to a bright orange during the cooking process, this is the release and activation of the key antioxidants making them available to the body. The seeds are also full of fiber and other nutrients and are great on a salad after roasting. You can use cooked squash in your oatmeal, in soups, as a roasted vegetable, mixed with a whole grain as a side dish, or mashed like potatoes.

One of my favorite recipes is to stuff halved winter squash with a skillet mixture of sauteed onion and garlic, lean turkey sausage, pre-cooked barley and brown rice, along with spinach and any other vegetables you might have on hand. Through in some cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cardamom, and ginger to boost the flavor. Now you have a full meal that is tasty and satisfying.

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