While gravy and mashed potatoes do not form part of a healthy diet, researchers say vegetables that traditionally appear in the fall on American tables, such as pumpkin and squash, contain a variety of health-promoting compounds.
In fact, these vegetables are rich in carotenoids—a family of yellow to red pigments which play an important role in human health by acting as sources of provitamin A or as antioxidants.
According to the American Society for Horticultural Science, pumpkins and squash are excellent sources of dietary carotenoids, particularly lutein, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene that have been shown to delay or prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
As a result, recent research has focused on helping breeders increase the carotenoid content of vegetables, and the first step towards that is to measure the carotenoid content.
Researchers from the University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department designed a research study using colorimetric analysis in pumpkins and squash and found a strong correlation between colorimetric values and carotenoid content.
They also found a "nine-fold increase in total carotenoids provided within orange–red and yellow–orange colored cultigens versus yellow colored cultigens."
Those who are unable to consume enough yellow and red vegetables on a regular basis may use nutritional supplements to enrich their diet.