Autumn is synonymous with pumpkin in the Western world. Fall’s signature squash lends itself well to pumpkin bread, ravioli, pie, risotto, beer and even a latte. The options are endless and mouthwatering.

Out here, with the humble kaddu available round the year, it’s pumpkin season all the time. If the pumpkin isn’t a part of your menu, here’s why it should be:

  1. Sharpens eyesight: A cup of cooked pumpkin has more than 200 per cent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. This aids vision, particularly in dim light. Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of vitamin A.
  2. Aids weight loss: Pumpkin is rich in fibre. A one cup serving has 3 gm fibre and only 49 calories. Eating this fibre-rich food will keep you full for longer on fewer calories. That translates into lesser eating and a successful weight loss plan.
  3. Enhance heart health: Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in certain phytosterols, plant-based chemicals that reduce LDL – or bad – cholesterol.
  4. Reduces blood pressure: Pumpkin seed oil is rich in phytoestrogens, which are beneficial and can help prevent hypertension. Research has shown that the oil helped lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure in just 12 weeks.
  5. Cuts cancer risk: The presence of the antioxidant beta-carotene may play a role in cancer prevention. Food sources of beta-carotene are more helpful than a supplement. The phytosterols in pumpkin seeds have also been linked to fighting certain cancers.
  6. Boosts male sexual health: A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains about 2.75 mg of zinc – 17 percent of the recommended daily intake for adults. Zinc is a key contributor to male sexual health. Research has also linked pumpkin seed oil to blocking unhealthy prostate growth in male rats.
  7. Improves the immune system: Pumpkins are a rich source of vitamin C, which is said to help ward off colds. A cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 11 milligrams or nearly 20 percent of the 60 milligrams the IOM recommends women need each day. Men must take in about 75 milligrams each day.
  8. Works as a post-workout food: Most of us turn to bananas after a workout to refuel. But try pumpkin. A cup of cooked pumpkin has much more potassium, the refueling nutrient. It has 564 milligrams as compared to a banana’s 422.
  9. Keeps skin supple: The carotenoids in pumpkin possess free-radical-neutralising powers that can help keep the skin wrinkle-free.
  10. Lifts your mood: Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan. The amino acid is important in the production of serotonin, which controls our mood. It also helps relax and unwind and promotes better sleep.

How can you up your pumpkin intake on a daily basis? Add pumpkin chunks to curries, dals or roasted vegetables. Sprinkle seeds on top of salads, soups or poha/upma. Make your own pumpkin puree spread or dip. And if you must, make a pie or cheesecake!

Try this healthy Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pilau, courtesy Cooking Light.

Hearty pumpkin and creamy sweet potatoes steal the show in this winter-weather pilaf. It’s an ideal way to add fibre to your diet and a beautiful showcase for some underused winter vegetables.

Ingredients

2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled fresh pumpkin

1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 medium)

Cooking spray

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion (1 small)

1/3 cup diced celeryRoasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pilau

2 teaspoons minced garlic

4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (optional)

1 cup brown rice

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Arrange pumpkin and sweet potato in an even layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes or until tender and just until vegetables begin to brown, stirring after 18 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add broth and remaining ingredients to onion mixture, stirring to combine; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 50 minutes or until rice is done and liquid is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Add pumpkin mixture; stir gently to combine.

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Written by Neha Jain

Neha Jain

She may have multiple degrees to back her expertise, but Neha Jain believes there’s nothing complex about nutrition. There is no magic formula for a healthy diet – the trick lies in balancing a variety of food groups and ensuring you’re eating the right portion size. With an MSc in Food and Nutrition from Delhi University and diplomas in naturopathy and yogic sciences, Neha is also a certified diabetes educator with extensive experience in endocrinological disorders and weight reduction, having worked with renowned endocrinologist Dr Ambrish Mithal in Delhi. Her goal is to help people find easy ways to make healthy choices, and believes HealthifyMe has simplified her task with its technology. Neha’s made the right choices for her family – she’s helped her husband control his high cholesterol levels and borderline diabetes by changing the meal plan at home, and introducing him to regular exercise – and now she’s hoping to ‘healthify’ you too.

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