Besides being popular for jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie, this bright-colored squash family member is a good source of beta-carotene. From the Greek pepon—meaning large melon—you may find pumpkins not only colored orange, but yellow, red, or even white. And while you may not enjoy slicing up your jack-o-lantern for mealtime once Halloween is over, baking a sugar or pie pumpkin—or using canned pumpkin available at any grocery store—and adding your favorite pumpkin spices is sure to please your taste buds and diet.
The orange color of pumpkins shows off the vegetable’s plentiful offering of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. A diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk for some types of cancer and may help prevent heart disease, according to Phyllis Balch and James Balch in their book Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Avery, 2000). Pumpkin seeds are also beneficial in the treatment of prostate disorders and irritable bladder. They contain valuable amino acids, vitamins, calcium, and even essential fatty acids in the form of omega-3s and omega-6s.