Halloween pumpkins: packed with healthy goodness

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Indy Lifestyle Online

With Halloween just around the corner, carved pumpkins are making their way onto many a front porch. But the distinctive orange-colored household item can do more this time of year than fend off evil spirits; its crisp seeds and nutty flesh have many under-reported health benefits.

Pumpkin seeds -- whether toasted or raw -- are packed with protein and vitamins. One serving of roasted pumpkin seeds contains one half of daily recommendations of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, and Vitamin K, nutrition experts say.

Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to bladder and prostrate health and studies have found that they help prevent the formation of kidney stones. The seeds are also instrumental in maintaining bone health because of their high amounts of zinc; furthermore  they are a natural anti-inflammatory and contain a compound thought to be naturally effective against depression (L-tryptophan).

Pumpkin seeds also contain phytosterols that lower levels of so-called "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and many cultures have also used the seeds as a natural treatment for tapeworms and other parasites.

Pumpkin flesh is also highly nutritious and contains phytonutrients that can protect from the damage of UV rays. Studies have found that it could reduce the risk of melanoma and other skin-related illnesses.

Rich in fiber, pumpkin also contains immunity-boosting vitamins C and E, plentiful amounts of potassium that can prevent hypertension, and carotenoid pigments like alpha-carotene (vitamin A), beta-carotene and lutein, known to ward off a number of illnesses including certain cancers.

So instead of chucking the flesh while carving your jack-o-lantern this year, snack on some pumpkin seeds or spoon out the rich meat and incorporate it into a hearty, nutritious meal.