With the official start of fall just a few days away, signs of the new season are all around us.
Mums and barrels of hay decorate storefronts.
There's a bounty of freshly picked apples at local farmer's markets.
And, of course, the most quintessential symbol of fall has begun to line the steps and porches of homes.
I'm talking about pumpkins.
Most folks see pumpkins and think, Jack-o'-lanterns.
But this orange squash is so much more than a decoration.
Pumpkins are literally bursting with nutrients that boost your health.
Like vitamin A.
One cup of cooked pumpkin delivers 245% of your RDI!
That's great news for your immune system which relies on vitamin A to help fight infections.
And also, your vision, because vitamin A deficiency has been linked to blindness.
Pumpkin is also packed with two other key nutrients for eye health – lutein and zeaxanthin.
These two compounds have been linked to lower risks of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
What's more? Pumpkins are chock full of antioxidants like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.
These powerful fighters can neutralize free radicals, stopping them from damaging your cells.
Even your heart may get a boost from eating pumpkin due to its potassium, vitamin C and fiber content.
And it's not just humans who benefit from eating pumpkin.
It's great for the digestive health of dogs – especially if they're experiencing diarrhea.
Not only does the soluble fiber in pumpkin add bulk to your dog's stool, it also serves as a prebiotic to your pup's GI tract.
You see, prebiotics are like food for the beneficial bacteria in the intestines, helping them thrive and multiply – and crowd out bad bacteria along the way.
Now, before you run down to the store and pick yourself up a few cans of pumpkin, take note.
Most of that canned stuff is loaded with sugar and highly processed.
So, you have got to read labels.
When it comes to eating pumpkin, I prefer fresh.
I'll cut the flesh into bite-size pieces, season with some salt & pepper, and roast it in the oven.
Roasted pumpkin makes a nice side dish on its own. Or, I'll add it to a soup or salad.
And, I never trash the seeds.
They carry their own health benefits.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, which helps support prostate health.
Also, research has found consumption of pumpkin seeds can promote bladder health.
Plus, pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium – a key mineral many folks are deficient in.
So, roast those babies up and enjoy!