Why pumpkins are good for your health

Plus three easy recipes with pumpkins

By Alastair Lockwood Ophthalmologist, Eye Surgeon and Eye Health Advisor at Feel Good Contacts

It’s pumpkin season! As we near the spooky season, it’s worth remembering pumpkins are not just for Halloween decorations and jack-o-lanterns. They are also an excellent ingredient for many autumnal recipes as they contain vitamins and minerals that can benefit our overall health, including our vision.

Pumpkins are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc. Vitamin C slows down the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and reduces the risk of cataracts. Vitamin A protects the cornea and improves night vision, while zinc helps to deliver vitamin A from the liver to the retina to form melanin which protects the eye and helps slow down AMD progression.

Does pumpkin contain lutein?

Pumpkin contains lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are antioxidants. These antioxidants protect your eyes by filtering out high energy wavelengths of light. They may also reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases such as cataracts and AMD.

Does pumpkin have healing properties?

In addition to beta-carotene and the vitamins that pumpkins offer, iron and folate strengthen the immune system and speed up the healing process of a wound.

Aside from boosting eye health, eating pumpkin has many other health benefits. They are high in fibre and potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and aid weight loss.

While the market is saturated with pumpkin snacks, many of these snacks, including pumpkin spiced lattes and pumpkin pie, are packed with sugar. Snacks and beverages such as these are best enjoyed in moderation.

Healthy pumpkin snacks include baked pumpkin seeds, which are packed with vitamins, smoothies, and soup. Below are three recipes to increase your pumpkin consumption and boost your eye health.

Pumpkin soup

This pumpkin soup will satisfy your appetite during the colder months.

Ingredients

·        ½ tablespoon of olive oil

·        1 sweet onion, diced

·        1 tablespoon of minced garlic

·        1 teaspoon of ground ginger

·        1 cauliflower head, florets diced (about 5 cups of florets total)

·        4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth

·        1 can of pumpkin puree (unsweetened)

·        1 tablespoon of maple syrup or brown sugar

·        1 teaspoon of salt, to taste

·        ½ cup of full-fat canned coconut milk

·        Chives to garnish

Instructions

·        Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat

·        Sauté the onions in the pan for 5-10 minutes (until soft)

·        Add the garlic and the ginger and cook for a further minute taking care to stir

·        Add cauliflower, broth, and pumpkin, turn heat to high, bring to a boil and cover

·        Keep covered and reduce the heat to low

·        Leave to simmer until the cauliflower is tender (20-30 minutes)

·        Add maple syrup, salt and coconut milk and stir

·        Remove the soup and add to a blender; puree until smooth

Pumpkin smoothie

Pumpkin smoothies are easy to make and can be enjoyed in the morning for breakfast or after dinner as a dessert.

Ingredients:

·        1 can of pumpkin puree

·        1 banana

·        2 cups of milk

·        ¼ cup of brown sugar

·        2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Directions:

·        Add all the ingredients to a blender and puree until nice and smooth

Roasted pumpkin

Roasting a pumpkin enhances its flavours and is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It can be added to a salad or enjoyed as a main dish.

Ingredients:

·   1 small pumpkin

·   2 tablespoon of olive oil

·   1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

·   2 teaspoons of sea salt

·   2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Directions:

·   Preheat the oven to 200° C

·   Scoop out the insides of the pumpkin, including the seeds

·   Cut the rest of the pumpkin up into slices and place on a baking sheet

·   Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, ground cinnamon and brown sugar

·   Place in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes

·   Cooking times may vary, so check the pumpkin after 15 minutes

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