A reason to eat pumpkin pie year-round? Sign us up! Many of us happily eat pumpkin treats during the Halloween to Christmas season, but research shows slicing into that pumpkin bread or nibbling on those roasted pumpkin seeds all year long has many health benefits. A group of researchers conducted a review of the latest studies on pumpkin’s potential and found some keys to its disease-fighting power.
Pumpkin Basics: Pumpkin seeds (which can be pressed to make pumpkin seed oil) are fairly low in fat and contain a good amount of protein (about 10 gm in 1/4 cup), calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin E. The pumpkin flesh (or “pulp”) is rich with calcium, potassium and vitamin A. But the vitamins and minerals are not the only stars of the show. Pumpkin’s other natural components contribute to its health benefits.
Anti-Diabetic: Insulin, produced by the pancreas, is like a key that gets glucose from the blood to tissues where it is used for energy. In a diabetic, this “key” is not produced in sufficient amounts and/or it has trouble opening the door for glucose to enter the tissues (referred to as “insulin resistance”), resulting in high blood sugar. Research indicates that pumpkin pulp and seeds have components that might improve insulin secretion and insulin resistance, thus lowering abnormally high blood glucose.
Antioxidant & Anti-Carcinogenic: Antioxidants, as the name implies, help reduce oxidative stress that can contribute to a host of chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Pumpkin seeds contain a significant amount of vitamin E and the pulp is high in alpha- and beta-carotene, which are all powerful antioxidants. Additionally, the researchers looked at seven studies that suggested pumpkin’s carotenoids and other compounds help prevent or slow tumor growth.
Anti-Microbial: Fungi and bacteria cause infectious diseases in many people each year. Numerous studies in the review showed that pumpkin pulp, seeds and oil were all able to stop or slow the spread of infectious microbes. In particular, it inhibited the growth of Candida albicans, a common fungus that can lead to yeast infections.
Anti-Inflammatory: Inflammation is a key problem in many diseases. Pumpkin seeds or seed oil might both have anti-inflammatory properties, which could reduce the symptoms of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.
More research is needed to clarify pumpkin’s potential, but there’s no harm in giving it a more regular appearance in your diet.
Pumpkin Prep Tips:
- To make it quick and easy, pick up unsalted pumpkin seeds and canned pumpkin with no salt added. Make sure the canned version is 100 percent pumpkin not “pumpkin filling” that is used for pies and loaded in sugar.
- To cook a pumpkin yourself: Cut it open, throw away the stringy part, then cut it into cubes and boil or roast it. As part of the squash family, cook it as you would butternut squash.
- Keep the seeds. You can sprinkle them with cinnamon powder and a little cayenne pepper and roast or dehydrate them until crispy. If you leave a little bit of pumpkin juice on the seeds, it gives them a nice pumpkin taste.