The tricks and treats inside Halloween pumpkins

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday in my family.  Although our home is decorated in jewel tones, with which the garish holiday orange clashes brutally, I still enjoy decorating the house with typical seasonal favorites, from stuffed bats and paper skeletons to happy toothless jack-o-lanterns glowing on the front porch, beckoning young trick-or-treaters to ring our doorbell and offer up a joke in exchange for a sweet treat.

While I enjoy cooking with canned pumpkin all year long, nothing celebrates the end of October quite like roasted pumpkin seeds. When I was growing up, these were the reward for extricating and separating the “goo” of pumpkin innards.  My sister and I would spread the sticky orange mash onto the newspaper we had carefully spread over the kitchen table, and painstakingly pick out the seeds and place them on a cookie sheet, which mom would put into the oven with a bit of creative seasoning.  An hour later, we’d be crunching away as we watched “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” on TV.

As it turns out, there is more to roasted pumpkin seeds than just delicious flavor.  These delightful fall treats are rich in zinc, which nourishes the brain.  They are also loaded with magnesium, an element which facilitates muscle, nerve, cardiac and bone function. As an added bonus, both zinc and magnesium help the body generate protein, and aid in the absorption of energy from the food we eat.

When the little trick-or-treaters come home and are experiencing a bit of a “sugar rush” from having sampled a few too many sweets, pumpkin seeds may be just what moms and dads need to help coax the little ones off to sleep. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid that our bodies convert into serotonin, which in turn gets converted into melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” Eating pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed, along with a carbohydrate like a small piece of fruit, may be especially beneficial in promoting a restful night’s sleep.

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This season, treat yourself to a pumpkin or two from the farmer’s market.  Carve your scary jack-o-lantern, and then enjoy the “inside leftovers”.  It’s a delicious trick to keep your body healthy!