The Great, Healthy Pumpkin


Autumn is the season in which bright orange pumpkins begin to appear, most of which are creatively carved to serve as Halloween jack-o’-lanterns and discarded on November 1.

However, it's a mistake to consider this beneficial plant food as nothing more than a holiday decoration, or source of a sugar-laden pie. Pumpkins can provide a variety of benefits, as you'll soon see.

The pumpkin, a member of the gourd family cucurbitaceous, is native to North America, hence its real or imagined role in the first Thanksgiving day feast.

Aside from its use as an American holiday favorite, pumpkin can be consumed in breads, soups, casseroles, and a number of desserts.

Pumpkins Are A Great Source Of Beta Carotene

Pumpkin's orange color is a hint that this variety of squash contains an abundance of beta carotene, a precursor of vitamin A.

Because beta carotene converts to vitamin A only as needed, consuming fruit and vegetables that are rich in beta carotene does not result in toxic levels of the vitamin.

Beta carotene is concentrated in the flesh of the pumpkin, which is the part of the plant that is commonly eaten. In addition to being high in vitamins and minerals, their flesh is also an excellent source of fiber.

Pumpkins Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Pumpkin may help protect the pancreas of diabetics, as well.

In a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, researchers in China report that pumpkin fruit extract lowered glucose and stimulated pancreatic cell regeneration in diabetic rats.1

Pumpkin Seed for Overactive Bladder And Maintaining Prostate Health

Although pumpkin seeds are frequently discarded, they have health benefits of their own. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, magnesium, niacin, and the amino acid tryptophan, which is often taken for sleep or relaxation.

Pumpkin seeds have been shown in animal and human studies to reduce urinary frequency, also known as "overactive bladder." For men, pumpkin seeds improve benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that causes urinary frequency.

In one study, men who consumed a pumpkin seed extract experienced a 40% increase in urinary flow and a 30% reduction in nighttime urinary frequency in comparison with placebo.2

In a different study, 47 men with BPH saw their prostate symptoms improve after three months of daily supplementation with 320 milligrams of pumpkin seed oil.3

Pumpkin seed extract improves BPH by lowering 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), one of the hormones that stimulates prostate enlargement.

Pumpkin Seed Lowers Inflammation And Decreases High Blood Pressure

In rats with induced arthritis, pumpkin seed oil lowered inflammation to a degree comparable to that of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

And in postmenopausal women, pumpkin seed oil reduced diastolic blood pressure and increased HDL cholesterol, the “good cholesterol”.5

The Bottom Line

The healing powers of pumpkin are so impressive that they should be enjoyed and eaten year-round.

In addition to the autumn harvest, pumpkin is also available canned and frozen. Pumpkin seeds are widely available any time of the year, and pumpkin seed extract can even be found in supplements.

References:

  1. J Sci Food Agric. 2007 Jul;87(9):1753-57. 
  2. Br J Urol. 1990 Dec;66(6):639-41. 
  3. Nutr Res Pract. 2009 Winter;3(4):323-7. 
  4. Pharmacol Res. 1995 Jan;31(1):73-9. 
  5. Climacteric. 2011 Oct;14(5):558-64.

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