Pump­kins are not just for carv­ing

En­joy the many health ben­e­fits

South Shore Breaker - - Games - CYN­THIA MCMUR­RAY HEALTHY LIV­ING cm­c­mur­ray@her­ald.ca

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.

If you have any nat­u­ral health ques­tions or some­thing you would like more in­for­ma­tion about, feel free to email cm­c­mur­ray@her­ald.ca.

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