Pumpkins are not just for carving
Enjoy the many health benefits
Fall is definitely in the air. You can smell the leaves and the cool, fresh air that marks the end of another amazing summer. As we head into a new season, we can look forward to the array of delicious winter fruits and vegetables that will grace our Thanksgiving table. While technically a fruit, pumpkins are not only one of the most popular of these, but they are also amazingly full of a number of nutritional and therapeutic benefits.
For starters, from a nutritional standpoint, pumpkin is an excellent source of dietary fibre (2.7 grams per cup). It is full of beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A — 245 per cent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) in one cup — and it also has a healthy dose of vitamins C and K, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and phosphorous.
Just a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds, for example, has almost 50 per cent of the RDI amount of magnesium, which is essential for such things as heart health, RNA and DNA synthesis, bone and teeth development as well as blood sugar levels and blood pressure, just to name a few of the more than 600 chemical reactions it has in your body.
For example, an observational study published in Diabetes Care shows that diets that are high in magnesium are linked to a 33 per cent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes in men and a 34 per cent lower risk in women.
Like other seeds, pumpkin seeds are a wonderful source of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant- based omega-3 fatty acid, which like all fatty acids, serves as energy for your muscles, heart and other vital organs.
Pumpkin is also an excellent source of zinc, something we all need, especially this time of year when cold and flu bugs are ramping up, since it is an excellent immune booster.
For men, pumpkin seeds are often used to help relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which causes the prostate gland to enlarge, resulting in urination problems among other things. One study published in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology shows that simply eating pumpkin seeds can help with BPH. Another study published in Nutrition Research and Practice revealed that of the 1,400 men studied over a three-month period, taking 320 milligrams per day of pumpkin seed oil, combined with 320 milligrams per day of saw palmetto oil, reduced the symptoms of BPH and increased urinary flow, improving the overall quality of their lives.
Further, in both men and women with overactive bladders, 10 grams of pumpkin seed extract daily significantly reduced the degree of symptoms, according to the Journal of Traditional and Complimentary Medicine.
A 2009 study published in Food Research International, also show pumpkin seed oil has anti-inflammatory effects and may even be as effective as indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug used for arthritis, minus the side effects, of course.
In total, according to researchers, there are 22 positive pharmacological actions associated with pumpkin. And much like how a big turkey dinner makes you feel sleepy, pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of tryptophan, the amino acid your body converts into serotonin, which is further converted into melatonin, also known as the “sleep hormone.”
So, this year, when you pick out your perfect pumpkin for carving, you might also want to pick out a few pumpkins to eat. Roasted pumpkin seeds, for example, can be a wonderful, healthy treat for snacking and a handful before bed may be just the thing to help you get a good night’s sleep.
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