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When most people think of pumpkins, they bring up fond memories of carving jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, or of making and eating delicious pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving time. However, these round orange winter squashes are useful for much more than Halloween decorations or holiday dinners. Almost all parts of the pumpkin are edible, and that includes the seeds, leaves, and flowers, as well as the fleshy shell we all know and love. Besides being delectable, pumpkins can be beneficial to the health of your eyes.

Benefits of Pumpkins for Eye Health

Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin C can lower the risk of macular degeneration and getting cataracts, which are 2 of the principal causes of adult onset blindness. Vitamin A, in combination with vitamin C, zinc, copper, and vitamin E, appears to decrease a person’s risk of AMD (macular degeneration). A study subsidized by the National Eye Institute found that people taking a multiple vitamin daily which contained vitamin C and vitamin A (beta carotene) reduced their risk of getting advanced macular degeneration by 25% over a 6 year period.

Pumpkins Are High in Zinc

Each ounce of pumpkin seeds has approximately 2 milligrams of zinc. The USFDA (US Food & Drug Association) recommends that men and women consume 8 to 11 milligrams of zinc per day. Zinc not only enables vitamin A to navigate from the liver to the retina to form melanin (an eye-protecting pigment), it also slows progression of age-related macular degeneration, and helps to reduce the loss of visual sharpness by 19%.

Pumpkins Are a Fantastic Source of Antioxidants Zeaxanthin and Lutein

Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful carotenoids and antioxidants which help to filter out high-energy damaging light wavelengths, basically playing the part of a sunscreen for eyes. Carotenoids are responsible for giving a pumpkin its beautiful orange pigment, as well as strengthening your eyes and protecting them against macular degeneration.

Choose Healthier Pumpkin Choices

Most pumpkin snacks on the market, including pumpkin pies, cakes, and breads, are full of sugar and should be eaten in moderation. Some healthier choices of pumpkins are baked pumpkin seeds, which are a vitamin-filled, guilt-free snack, or a pumpkin smoothie, which can be used for a dessert substitute, plus being the perfect breakfast drink. For a warmer alternative, try some pumpkin soup, a fantastic way to warm up on these colder days, or have roasted pumpkin for a main course, use it for a side dish, and you can even include it in salad.

To learn more about eye health, schedule an eye exam at Southwestern Eye Center today.