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Nutritional & Health Benefits of Pumpkin and Its Seeds

Pumpkin is a winter vegetable that is a member of the Cucurbitacea cucurbita family of plants. Being a winter vegetable, fresh pumpkins are only available in the fall and early winter. 

Both pumpkins and, even more so, pumpkin seeds are very healthy and have many health benefits. Pumpkin is low in calories at only 15 calories per half a cup, making it great for weight watchers. 

Nutritional Values
Raw pumpkin only has 15 calories per 1/2 cup. It is high in Vitamin C and beta carotene and low in carbohydrates and calories with zero cholesterol 

Prepared pumpkin for pie isn't as healthy as raw pumpkin but still not bad. One slice of pie (without crust) has 316 calories, 41 grams of carbs, 65mg of cholesterol, 5g of fat, and 349mg of sodium. On the upside, it is super high in beat carotene at 7366 micrograms. It has good levels of calcium, potassium, and vitamin A. 

Pumpkin seeds have 373 calories per 1/2 cup. They are a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese. They are also a good source of protein and fiber. They are a little 
high in fat but relatively low in carbohydrates with zero cholesterol. Further Nutritional information is included at the end of this article.  

Health Benefits
The health benefits of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are numerous. It has dozens of beneficial nutrients with properties that help maintain vital bodily functions and treat many ailments. Pumpkin is orange because of the lutein, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene, which convert to vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that helps against free radicals. 

Pumpkin seeds contain carotenoids, omega-3 fats, and zinc, which are believed to be beneficial to the male prostate. 
The zinc in pumpkin seeds help bone mineral density. Studies have shown that the seed oil have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pains of arthritis without negative side-effects.

Pumpkin Seeds contain phytosterols are compounds found in plants that are believed to lower cholesterol, strengthen the immune response, and lower the risk of some cancers. Studies show that pistachios and sunflower seeds are rich in phytosterols (270-289 mg/3.5 ounces) followed by pumpkin seeds (265 mg/3.5 ounces). It helps kidney and gallbladder illnesses. They also help remove tapeworm and roundworm from our intestines when we are infested. 

Ways to Eat

Pumpkins are easy to handle and cook once you know how. Here are some methods that I've found helpful. 

Option #1: The Oven

Cut pumpkin open and scoop out the seeds. Place pumpkin halves facedown in a baking dish. Add 1/2" of water to pan: this helps keep the pumpkin flesh moist.

Bake at 450ยบ until you can pierce the skin with a fork (about 45 minutes to an hour).
Scoop flesh out of shell with a spoon.  

Option #2: The Microwave
Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks (so it will fit in microwave), leaving skin on. Place pumpkin chunks in a shallow, microwave-safe dish with a lid (or cover with plastic wrap).
Spray the cut pumpkin surfaces with cooking spray, and cover. Cook on high for 15 minutes, or until tender (feels soft and cooked).
Alternately, you can add water to the dish, eliminating the spray, to keep the pumpkin from drying out. 

Option #3: The Stovetop

Cut pumpkin in half, scooping out the seeds. Then, cut pumpkin into large chunks, but leave the skin on.
Place chunks in a large steamer basket (or a colander placed inside a dutch oven, with water on the bottom). Steam for 20 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender.