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Pumpkin is the symbol of autumn and the holiday season, starting with Halloween pumpkin-carving and ending with pumpkin pie after a traditional Christmas dinner. With summer coming to a close and fall on the horizon, it’s worth it to know what makes pumpkin more than a decoration or canned mush. Pumpkin is a highly underrated superfood and deserves a place in your diet.

Pumpkin is low in calories, sodium, and cholesterol, contains 1.2 grams of protein and nearly 400 milligrams of potassium per cup. One cup also contains 17 percent of your daily value of vitamin C and 197 percent of your daily value of vitamin A. It is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin B12, and iron.

Pumpkins, like other orange-colored vegetables contain the antioxidant beta-carotene, which may slow or prevent the development of cancer. The seeds also add to its cancer-fighting potential – they pack in sterols that may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. And don’t assume a concentrated version of beta-carotene, which is found in man-made supplements, is just as effective. The food source of the antioxidant is what fights cancer. Those antioxidants aren’t just good candidates for cancer prevention; they can also help to slow aging.

Pumpkin also contributes to weight loss. It contains three grams of fiber in a one-cup serving, and this fiber helps you to shed pounds.

Pumpkin’s seeds, too, are full of nutritional benefits: they’re rich in phytosterols, which have been show to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Even though the holiday season may bring about a few pounds, it’s surely the sugar, butter, and other heavy ingredients laden in pumpkin-centric desserts that are to blame. But what you can attribute to pumpkin around the holiday season is an improved mood. Pumpkin seeds contains tryptophan, an amino acid that produces serotonin, which promotes a stable mood and healthy sleeping patterns.

So, put away the carving knife and bring the pumpkin into the kitchen for some delicious pumpkin culinary creations. You’ll be happier and healthier because of it! Bon Appetit!

Image Credit: Richard Bowen