How Good are Pumpkins?

Only our forebears know of all the uses there have been for pumpkin. Of course, Halloween has to be the most important, right? Kids love scooping out the insides and making that one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern. But there are many more important uses for this big orange veggie. The Native Americans cultivated it for millennia before it was introduced to the pilgrims, teaching them how to harvest, prepare and store this veggie. A big benefit of this veggie is that it’s a staple food that can last for weeks and even months of autumn and winter.

The Catawbas tribe ate pumpkin seeds for kidney health and the Yumas made a mixture from pumpkin and watermelon seeds for wound healing. The Menominees drank a powdered squash and pumpkin seed mixture to encourage urination. They had other preparations to release parasites and treat “female ills.” MDidea has several of the folk remedies made from pumpkin pulp that they support. It was used in folk medicine to treat kidney inflammation and intestinal parasites and listed as one of the Four Greater Cold Seeds in an 18th century list of meds. Today it is used to treat irritable bladder and prostate complaints. The fatty oil is mildly diuretic, and the constituent, cucurbitacins, appears to inhibit the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.

Today pumpkin is used for foods that produce a warm, delicious and satisfying treat. Just think of that warm delicious pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped cream, that remains a favorite at Thanksgiving time. But it isn’t just tasty, it’s also beneficial to your health, and nearly every part of the pumpkin is edible, including the leaves and flowers.

Pumpkin has high marks on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index as a 1-cup serving gives you 11% of the fiber you need on a daily basis to keep the system running smoothly. It is also rich in vitamin A and contains 19% of the RDA in vitamin C along with 16% in potassium, riboflavin, copper and manganese. Other nutrients contained in pumpkin are: Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Iron, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Niacin. It’s beta-carotenes deliver the most punch in the way of antioxidants. Carotenoids, Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in pumpkin. The pumpkin seeds have a dramatic effect on your health through the vitamins, minerals and nourishing qualities they contain.

Several effects are heart health, re-energizes after a workout, skin protection, better eyesight and potentially lower cancer risk. They are also good sources of micronutrients with demonstrated cancer fighting properties.

Buy your pumpkins when fully ripe and store in a cool, dry place, even if it’s outdoors before a hard frost. Wash the outside before cutting them because the growers have most likely used pesticides and herbicides.

Try those pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack. They have a set of nutrients such as omega-3 fats, zinc, calcium, iron and an array of beneficial phytochemicals that place them in the superfood category. Roast the seeds after washing in cold water and spreading them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 225 degrees F for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle a bit of natural salt to bring out their nutty flavor. Then——Enjoy!

-Dr Fredda Branyon

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