Pumpkins abound during this month of harvest festivals and Halloween, selected mostly for their decorative appeal and use in desserts. But behind that carved face hide benefits beyond the porch lantern or pie tin:

Rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, pumpkin seeds are also high in manganese, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Studies find they have an anti-inflammatory effect and support prostate as well as bone health. Enjoy the seeds dried with a dash of salt, or mix them into salads, sautéed veggies, or even your morning cereal for a robust protein enhancer.

Saturated in beta-carotene, pumpkin fights free radicals and promotes eye health. It’s low in calories, too, and may help stabilize blood pressure along with blood sugar. New studies even suggest Asian pumpkin extract may impede effects of type 1 diabetes. Try pumpkin in soups or as a cooked side dish. Remove seeds and stem, cut into pieces, and boil in an inch of water for about 20 minutes or bake for an hour at 350 degrees. To puree, peel the skin and blend the cooked meat.

Choose small pumpkins (2-6 pounds) with at least 1-inch stems and vibrant orange exteriors that don’t flake or scratch when you scrape them with your fingernail.

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