The Power of Pumpkin

Published by Rebecca Baron on

Photo by Scott Webb

Halloween may be over, but there are still many uses for the vibrant, powerful pumpkin. One of my favorite fruits, not only for cooking but for its beautiful aesthetic. Pumpkin or other related squash are available fresh in some varietal form at most places, but a good quality organic canned pumpkin makes for a healthy cupboard staple.

History

Pumpkin is a gourd that grows on a vine close to the ground, versus a climbing vine. Related to the squash (Cucurbitaceae) family, pumpkin is believed to originate in North America, as early as 300 B.C. Now it is grown worldwide and has over 45 varietals. It is the largest of its family, some varieties growing to over 200 lbs in size!

Health Benefits

  • Rich in vitamins and minerals
    • Vitamin A and vit. C– not only critical vitamins but also potent antioxidants.
      • Both vitamins A and C are megastars, providing many benefits and defense against diseases by protecting the cell at its cellular layer.
      • These doubled up antioxidants and vitamins are better absorbed and tolerated from food sources. Synthetic antioxidants made in labs do not provide the same synergetic dosage as vitamins from food sources. In fact, cheap synthetic vitamins have been found to overall increase mortality in a recent peer-reviewed meta-analysis.
    • Another prolific antioxidant found in pumpkin is carotenoids.
      • Beta-carotene is what gives orange foods its lovely hue.
      • Carotenoids help slow cellular damage caused by free radicals. They also can lower cognitive decline and your risk of several cancers, especially of the lung.
      • Besides sweet potato and carrot, beta-carotene is also found in a green form with squash, spinach, zucchini, and peas.
    • Iron and Magnesium– for healthy blood flow and nervous system, immune and muscular health. Many people are deficient in magnesium without realizing it. Women who more prone to anemia would benefit from pumpkin, beets, and grass-fed beef in their diet.
      • Fun Fact: Like tomato sauce, pumpkin cooked down increases its value of vit. A and iron content.
  • Fiber– rich in soluble fiber, which not only helps in the regularity department but is also benefical for cardiovascular health and insulin balance.
  • Hydrating – 90% of pumpkin is comprised of water! Pumpkin makes a great binder and egg replacement for vegan baking. Check out my thick delicious pumpkin chili recipe here.

While carotene or other carotenoids have been shown to protect the lungs and lower lung disease risk as we age, abnormally high level of carotene increase likelihood of lung cancer. Especially, in smokers.

Medical News Today
Photo by Lucie Liz

Keep the Seeds!

Simply rinse and lay on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, and roast in the oven for 15-20 mins at 400 F. They add a nice crunch to a salad, make a low-carb, protein-rich alternative to granola on your yogurt or other snacks. In addition, the seeds alone provide heart-healthy Omega-3’s, and concentrated levels of the antioxidants and minerals of course the fruit provides. Always save the seeds!

Try it out!

Pumpkin, squashes, and gourds are wonderful nutritious offerings, especially this time of year. Easy to keep year-round in canned form, even yields a higher nutrient content when cooked down like lycopene in tomato sauce. I enjoy roasting pieces of pumpkin flesh and incorporating them into a curry or hearty beef stew. You can even easily substitute canned pumpkin in my curry butternut bisque if you are short on time to roast a whole gourd. They also combine well in a squash medley sauteed in garlic and butter. Instead of sweet potato fries, why not try baking or french frying pumpkin wedges?

I do hope you enjoy exploring ways to incorporate this superfood more frequently than the holiday table and let me know in the comments.

For the Love of Food & All That’s Good,

The Carrot Campaign


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