The Great Pumpkin: Surprising Health Benefits of Fall's Power Food

Did you know pumpkins are 90 percent water? And that they're a fruit? How about that pumpkin flowers are edible?

In fact, fall's orange gourds probably have way more health benefits than you think. And now that the nearly year-longpumpkin shortage is over, it's time to dig in!

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In the old days, pumpkins were recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites. Now, they make a yummy facial: Real Housewives star, Bethenny Frankel, has created a pumpkin mask to pamper and hydrate your skin.

Way back when, Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine to treat things like digestive problems. Now, we mainly roast the pepitas and eat them as they are or grind them up and use them in recipes for things like pumpkin seed pesto.

But the nutrients haven't changed over the years -- and there are plenty.

Pumpkins are loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene. This can reduce the risk of some cancers and protect against heart disease. They're also high in fiber, potassium, and magnesium to help keep your body running in tip-top shape.

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In early colonial times, gourds (and their nutrients) were used to their fullest. This year, let's take a cue from our ancestors and see how much you can get out of that pumpkin.

One idea for inspiration: The sugary empty calories of graham crackers were not around back then, so colonists used the actual pumpkin in the crust of pies instead. Now that the pumpkin shortage is over, you should be able to get your hands on an extra can to give this technique a try.

Image via Shutterfool/Flickr

Written by Sahar Aker, on CafeMom's blog, The Stir.

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