This Friday is Halloween, and instead of stuffing your face with processed sugars from the ever gross-looking corn candy, why not eye your jack-o’-lantern and turn it into a healthy snack?
Okay, realistically, I love certain candies—dark chocolate, gummy candies, M&Ms, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and Kit-Kats are among my favorite—and I used to always have a bag of something in the pantry or freezer (if it’s chocolate) to satisfy my nibbling cravings. But let’s face it: I’m not getting any younger (and probably not much healthier), so I try to refrain from those addictive yet oh-so-joyous sweets. (I do, however, currently have a bag of Ghirardelli dark chocolate in my house and only allow myself, at most, one piece a day.)
Another realistic fact to consider is the pumpkin from which you carved that scary or goofy face is not the kind of pumpkin you’d normally ingest; the jack-o’-lantern pumpkins you see stacked high outside the supermarket are a different species from the sugar pumpkins better suited for eating. These are usually found within the produce section of a grocery store during autumn when fall squash and gourds are in season.
Here are some health benefits of pumpkin*:
- Contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Having Neuromyelitis Optica/NMO already means inflammation of the neurological system, so it’s important to eat foods that will help calm the inflammation. And with so many of us being on immunosuppressants, antioxidants are nature’s non-conflicting immune boosters.
- Vitamin A. This aids in eye health.
- Vitamin C. Again, helps boost the immune system, which is especially important with the impending flu season.
- Fiber. They say those with regular digestion are happier in life. Pumpkin will keep you going (no pun intended), which gets rid of toxins quicker.
- Carotids. Like carrots, this is why pumpkins are orange. This helps with cardiovascular health.
- Pumpkin seeds contain protein and healthy fats. This regulates cholesterol and promotes brain health.
- Magnesium. This mineral keeps eyes and bone healthy.
- Potassium and zinc. Helps lower blood pressure.
- Tryptophan. This is a natural anti-depressant and mood lifter.
*From “Eat Your Pumpkin: 9 Reasons Why It’s Good For You” on mindbodygreen.com
I’m a firm believer in the philosophy, Everything in moderation. That means, go ahead and eat your candy. But why not balance it out with some healthy pumpkin too? Use pumpkin in breads (pictured above), soups, bisques, pies, or (my favorite and a holiday staple in my household) cheesecake. Who said something good for you can’t taste good too?