The Healthiest Item on Your Thanksgiving table
Thanksgiving is around the corner, and if you’re like most Americans, you’re probably thinking as much about gravy and stuffing as you are about what you’re thankful for. It’s no secret that Thanksgiving is one of the most indulgent days of the year for most Americans, when comfort foods and sweet treats take center stage – on your table, at holiday parties and right around your midsection!
But one item on your table is often overlooked for its status as health superfood, probably because it’s often blended with sugar and sweetened milk and presented as a less-than-healthy dessert. Still, there are several reasons why pumpkin should be included in your Thanksgiving dinner – and on your plate all year long.
Your Eyes “See” the Benefits
Fall’s favorite gourd is easy on the eyes – in more ways than one. Not only are pumpkins a staple around Halloween, but they also grace autumn and Thanksgiving tables as beautiful and festive décor. But split one of those beauties open and there is a world of benefits right before your very own eyes (and just for your very own eyes!). Pumpkin provides you with a host of great nutrients, namely:
- Zinc: This mineral is important for many reasons, but since we’re “focusing” on the eye (get it?), it’s particularly important because it helps to keep your retina healthy.
- Vitamins A: Vitamin A, which is abundant in pumpkin, serves multiple functions in your eye health, namely protecting the cornea, the surface of the eye as well as improving vision in low light.
- Vitamin C: Move over, citrus fruits; pumpkin might be just as good at providing this nutrient, which reduces the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. This is particularly important because both of these conditions can lead to adult blindness.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: They might be hard to say, but these powerful nutrients are natural antioxidants, assisting your body in filtering out high-energy wavelengths of light which can be harmful to your eyes. Think of lutein and zeaxanthin as a natural sunscreen for your eyes. They’re also great at helping to prevent infection and disease.
Don’t Toss the Seeds
Roasting up your own pumpkin is a delicious and festive way to commemorate the season – and keep yourself healthy. While you’re cleaning out that gourd, don’t toss the seeds in the trash! Roasted pumpkin seeds are not only delicious, but they also provide great health benefits. Pumpkin seeds – also called pepitas – contain magnesium, which is great for your heart, zinc (you already know the benefits there), plant-based omega-3 fats and even have shown to help improve insulin regulation, a huge benefit for diabetics. If you’ve read any of our blogs before, you already know that diabetics are at greater risk of eye disease, so this is a huge benefit. Roast those little seeds with a little olive oil and light salt and pepper, and you’ve got a delicious and healthy snack that’s even great on the go.
Think beyond the pie
If the only pumpkin showing up on your Thanksgiving table has been baked into a pie, you might be missing the mark. Sure, you’ll still get the great nutrients from the pumpkin, but when that healthy pumpkin is combined with the sugar, saturated fats and white flour that make up the typical pie, the “unhealthy” might weigh out the “healthy” benefits. We’re not saying you can’t ever eat pumpkin cake, pumpkin pie or order that pumpkin spice latte, but we would encourage you to look beyond the treats when it comes to eating pumpkin. This squash is delicious when used in savory meals: as filling for ravioli, blended into a soup, used as a salad dressing or simply roasted, pureed and topped with a dab of butter and sea salt.
Let’s hear from you: what’s YOUR favorite pumpkin dish?