Happy Halloween! I have to admit that this is one of my favorite days of the year, so a minute of pumpkin worship in its honor must be given. Everyone is long accustomed to indulging in the traditional pumpkin pie throughout the holiday season, and more recently pumpkin loaves, soups and muffins have joined the list of autumn treats. Yet the nutritional value of this fruit makes it worthy of consumption all year long.
Pumpkin’s Nutrients, The Anatomical Breakdown
Starting with its skin, the rich orange pigmentation is a naturally high source of beta carotene. This converts in the body to Vitamin A, and is highly regarded as one of the most important antioxidant vitamins and most potent anti-aging nutrients.
Along to the pulp. Also rich in beta carotene, it contains a good amount of fiber and water making it helpful to digestion, colon health, blood sugar balance and weight management. One half cup contains 5 grams of fiber, that’s over 12% of the recommended 40 grams per day!
Luckily, the pumpkin seed’s nutritional benefits are no secret. They are high in protein, minerals, essential fatty acids and phytosterols. Their protein content makes them a good alternative to meat, and the minerals supplied keeps them on the list of healthy snack options. Some highly concentrated minerals are:
- Iron- the blood builder
- Magnesium-the muscle relaxer and de-stressor
- Potassium- the regulator of water balance
- Zinc– the immune enhancer and wound healer
Both the Essential Fatty Acids (omega 3 and 6) and the phytosterols (plant sterols) aid the cardiovascular system by decreasing inflammation and decreasing cholesterol. Phytosterols do this by competing with other cholesterol for absorption, and this competition keeps the LDL, aka “bad cholesterol”, levels low. The EFAs also support blood vessel, nerve and tissue health, all important components to increased heart health.**Note: Heart disease is still the leading cause of mortality in women**
The benefits of this superior fruit do not stop with the above list. Pumpkin is also used in the treatment of several ailments and illnesses. Some of its uses are more supported by anecdotal evidence than scientific, but others are in the process of clinical testing and pumpkin’s future as a healing plant is looking bright.
- Prostate Health– Pumpkin seeds have long been used as a general preventive to prostate problems, but research is indicating that the specific benefit is to preventing benign prostate enlargement and the subsequent complications with urinary flow. This is possibly through the high amounts of zinc. Many prostatitis and prostate cancer patients have been found to have low levels of zinc. A healthy prostate gland typically contains high concentrations of the mineral.
- Sexual Function– Again zinc takes center stage, and this time it is for the benefit of both males and females. We’ve all heard of the oyster’s reputation… and, by the way, they contain over 10 times the zinc of other foods. But, increased desire is not the only benefit, especially for men. This critical mineral is necessary to normalize testosterone production and maintain reproductive fluids.
- Mood Enhancement– This time the amino acid tryptophan, also found in pumpkin seeds, gets the credit. Tryptophan is used by our bodies to make serotonin. And serotonin is necessary to proper mood balance and sleep. One gram of pumpkin seeds has the same amount of tryptophan found in that warm cup of milk. More great news for vegetarians!
That’s plenty for now, but trust me. I could go on and on with the power of pumpkin, but I must get ready for the parade and trick or treaters! Have a blast tonight and of course…
Be Safe and BeWell