Find out why the nutrient-packed pumpkin is a all-around great source of vitamins as well as a delicious food to include in your diet.
The Nutrient-Packed Pumpkin
As the pumpkin plants in your garden reach out their arms to stretch in the sun, you can get a jump on menu planning to make these bright globes part of a healthy fall and winter diet.
The orange color of pumpkins shows off the vegetable’s plentiful offering of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. A diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk for some types of cancer as well as helping to prevent heart disease, according to Phyllis Balch and James Balch in their book Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Avery, 2000). Pumpkin is also beneficial in the treatment of prostate disorders and irritable bladder. It contains valuable amino acids, vitamins A and B, calcium, and even essential fatty acids in the form of omega-3s and omega-6s.
The zinc found in pumpkins is a key mineral in an overall healthy diet. It is important for prostate gland function and the immune system, and is a necessary component in maintaining the proper concentration of vitamin E in the blood, Balch and Balch write.
Pumpkin seeds have their own health benefits. Although they’re often the part of the pumpkin that gets discarded, the seeds are full of energizing nutrition and are used as an herbal remedy throughout the world. Pumpkin seeds are a power food, offering vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc, iron, protein, and B vitamins, writes Karen Sullivan in Natural Home Remedies (Element, 1997). They also harbor the pumpkin’s essential fatty acid content. According to Germany’s Commission E, pumpkin seeds are used for irritated bladder conditions and benign prostatic hyperplasia. In his book Healing with Whole Foods (North Atlantic, 1993), Paul Pitchford writes that pumpkin seeds support the urinary tract and may help expel intestinal worms. They also fight free radicals, earning them a place in cancer prevention. Sometimes called pepitas, the tasty green seeds also have the reputation of acting as an aphrodisiac. Roasted seeds are a popular snack.
Unfortunately, while roasting improves the seeds’ flavor, it decreases their omega-3 content, according to Pitchford.
Pumpkin seed oil, pressed from the seeds, is a tasty way to get your “good” fats. It is one of the top nutritional oils, providing a high content of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. I have a friend who discovered pumpkin seed oil in Austria and now uses it in homemade salad dressings to increase his EFA consumption because he enjoys the nutty taste. This deep-green oil is increasingly available at health-food stores. Try a simple salad dressing using two parts apple-cider vinegar, one part pumpkin seed oil, and salt to taste.
Read more about soybean foods and your health: Natural Healing Using Soybean Foods.