This is an excerpt from an OKT handout, Pumpkin Primer. Download the entire Pumpkin Primer here.
Halloween may be over but hold on to those pumpkins! One of the first cultivated foods of the Americas, pumpkins were a staple food in Oaxaca (Mexico) as early as 8750 BC—long before corn or beans. Pumpkin flesh is low in fat and rich in nutrients. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides three grams of fiber, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, C and E—200% of your daily requirement of vitamin A (for healthy eyes). It also provides carotenoids, which can help lower your risk for cancer.
Pumpkin seeds have anti-microbial benefits, including anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. So, they are a great snack during the cold and flu season. Studies on laboratory animals have shown pumpkin seeds may improve insulin regulation and help kidney function. Because they are an excellent source of the mineral zinc, the World Health Organization recommends eating them. Eating whole, roasted unshelled pumpkin seeds gives you the most zinc.
You can buy pumpkins seeds at most grocery stores. Read the labels to make sure they do not have a lot of salt or chemical additives. They are also called pepitas. Pepitas are a very popular snack in the Latino culture, perhaps because some of their ancestors were among the first in the world to discover and cultivate pumpkins.