Posted by Nicole on September 7, 2014

From pumpkin pie, to pumpkin spiced lattes, this humble gourd has come to be associated with some of the most sugary and decadent deserts and delights, racing far beyond its squashier brethren to become one of America's most beloved holiday comfort food flavors. What you may not know about these once and future Jack-o-Lanterns is that they are actually jam packed with some very nutritious substances and minerals. From the flesh to the seeds, pumpkins are quite secretly healthy. Here's how.

 A Gourd Full of Vitamins and Minerals

A serving of pumpkin has over 200% of your daily recommended value of vitamin A. It also has beta-carotene, which comes thanks to the substance that gives it its orange color, which are called carotenoids. A natural source that's rich in some pretty important vitamins, even adding a cup of pumpkin to your next soup or bread could do a lot of good for your diet. Beta-carotene is also a powerful anti-oxidant.

What's more, a pumpkin has more potassium per serving than the more popular source, bananas. That makes it a good call if you're looking for a way to up your intake, whether you're on a medication that may lower your potassium levels, or you just want to speed up your recovery from dehydration.

Pumpkins also contain a healthy dose of vitamin C. Each serving has 20% of your daily recommended value, so don't go throwing out your jug of orange juice and replacing it with pumpkin smoothies in the morning. Of course, sources of vitamin C in nature are rather abundant, but it's always good to have an extra option.

The Seeds of Good Health

While the flesh of the pumpkin's got loads of reasons to add it to your menu, the seeds are actually even more potent in what they can do for you.

-  Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, which helps to boost and regulate the production of seratonin. You can read earlier articles on why this is very beneficial, but the long and short of it is: More seratonin means better hormone regulation and a better mood. As part of your diet, even just pumpkin seeds could really show some improvements.

- Pumpkin seeds also contain phystosterols, which scientists have studies in its effects to reduce levels of LDL, or low density lipoprotein. More commonly, we call it “bad cholesterol.
- Pumpkin seeds have magnesium, which all of your important biological systems require. From proper heart regulation, to your bones and your teeth, to even your digestive track, magnesium's a powerhouse.

- Finally, pumpkin seeds have Omega-3s, and high levels of zinc. Omega-3s have benefits for many different systems in the body, and zinc does as well, which can include mood, ability to focus, and even sexual function in zinc's case.

So this season, you're encouraged to make the most out of all of the available pumpkin on sale. The best way to get it is naturally, so get into the kitchen and start cracking open those gourds.