Back in time of the early American Colonists, pumpkin was a popular food. They made pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, and even pumpkin beer. Nowadays it's a different story. Pumpkin is usually used as a Halloween decoration, and the sweet, nutritious flesh is thrown away. We only eat pumpkin in Thanksgiving and Christmas pies. |
That's a shame, because pumpkin is more than just a large winter squash and carver's delight. It's one of the best sources of beta-carotene, which can help to avoid cellular damage before it leads to disease. A half cup of pumpkin has more than 16 mgr of beta-carotene, or 160 to 200% of the daily amount recommended by experts.
Pumpkin also contains the eye-protecting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxantin and alpha-carotene.
Carotenoids, where pumpkin gets the orange color from, protect the body as it neutralize harmful oxygen molecules known as free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are very potent free-radical scavengers. A diet high in antioxidants can help by preventing many of the diseases associated with aging, including heart disease and cancer.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in the lenses of the eyes. Studies indicate that by eating foods high in these compounds, may help to stop the formation of cataracts.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infarmary in Boston compared the diets of elderly people who had advanced macular degeneration, a condition that leads to blurred vision, to the diets of those without the disease. The researchers found that those people who ate the most carotenoid-rich foods had a 43% lower risk of getting this condition than folks who ate the least. Among people who had already macular degeneration, those who got the most carotenoids in their diets were less likely to develop a more serious form of the disease.
Apart from helping to protect the plant itself from diseases, like getting to much sunlight, and other naturally occurring stresses, the beta-carotene in pumpkin can also help to protect people against a variety of conditions as well. Research has shown that by eating more beta-carotene rich foods, it can help prevent against a variety of cancer, like those of the stomach esophagus, lungs and colon. This protective effect is enhanced by phenolic acids, which are chemicals in pumpkin that bind to potential cardinogens and help to prevent them from being absorbed.
The beta-carotene in pumpkin may also play a role in preventing heart disease as well. Some research proved that people with diets high in fruits and vegetables that contain beta-carotene have a lower risk of heart disease than those whose diets supplied less.
There are other carotenoids in pumpkin with their own special power. A Chinese study conducted with 63,257 men and women showed that those who ate the most beta-cryptoxanthin had a 27% lower risk of lung cancer. Smokers among those in the study who consumed the most foods containing this carotenoid had a 3% lower risk for lung cancer.
Apart from a high content of beta-carotene and other phytonutrients, pumpkin also stores large amounts of fiber. For example, compared with one cup of cornflakes containing 1 gram of fiber, a half cup of canned pumpkin contains more than 3 gram, or 6% of the Daily Volume.
Iron is pumpkin's mainstay. A half cup of pumpkin provides almost 2 mgr of iron, or about 20% of the RDA for men and 13% of the RDA for women.This is very important for women who need to replenish their iron regularly due to menstruation.
Pumpkin seeds contain even more iron. One ounce - which consists of about 140 seeds - contain about 4 mgr of iron or about 40% of the RDA for men and 27% of the RDA for women. Furthermore, that ounce or 9 grams of seeds has as much protein as an ounce of meat, according to Susan Thom, RD, a nutrition consultant in Brecksville, Ohio.
Pumpkin seeds are also great for men's prostate problems. Compounds found in the oil of pumpkin seeds may help to stop prostate-cell overgrowth fueled by testosterone - a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which effects many men over the age of 50.
Carotenoids and good fats found in pumpkin seeds may also help to reduce the risk for BPH. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, which may improve prostate function and can help to maintain bone density. Studies on middle-aged and older men suggest that low zinc intake may be the cause of brittle bones, prone to fracture.
However, don't eat too many pumpkin seeds as 73% of the 148 calories in one ounce comes from fat. But if you like a crunchy, highly nutritious snack, pumpkin seeds, in moderation, are a good choice.
If you need pumpkin instant, canned pumpkin is an easy and convenient choice. It's nutritional value stays as good as in fresh pumpkin.
You can store leftover pumpkin in a freeze prove container and keep it for days without losing its nutritious value.
Make your own pumpkin seed snacks. Dry the seeds overnight on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. The next day, remove the paper towel, and place the seeds on the baking sheet. Roast in a 160 degrees F (low)oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the seeds are crisp and lightly browned. Season as desired.
Related Articles -
beta-carotene, carotenoids, antioxidants, heart diseases, cancer, fiber, iron, prostate problems, cataracts,