The Power of Pumpkin
You really can’t judge a book by its cover, or a food by its outward appearance. Pumpkin may look like a blank canvas of autumn artists or an iconic Thanksgiving star but it deserves better. Here are some of the benefits of pumpkin:
- High in fiber (5 grams per half cup serving)
- Low in calories (83 calories in one cup)
- Rich in alpha- and beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A
The carotenes in pumpkin make it particularly powerful. Beta-carotene has been extensively studied. One benefit of it that
scientists have discovered is that this antioxidant helps prevent oxidation of cholesterol, and this effect keeps arterial plaque from getting larger. Carotenes also have an anti-inflammatory property.
What diseases can the nutrients in pumpkin help prevent?
- Arterial diseases that lead to a stroke or heart attack
- Cataracts and macular degeneration
- Lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast and skin cancer
- Population studies suggest it may also protect from esophageal, stomach, prostate and laryngeal cancer as well
- Recent research offers hope that it may support the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, helping to prevent diabetes, or, if its developed, slow the progress of type 2 diabetes
In Jean Carper’s The Food Pharmacy (New York, 1988), pumpkin seeds have also been found to have some cancer-fighting powers. This book includes some interesting information on the correlation between regular pumpkin intake and lower lung cancer rates in smokers and those exposed to cigarette smoking on a regular basis.
Another advantage of pumpkin is that it is inexpensive. Pumpkin season has just ended so fresh pumpkin isn’t as widely available. In Steven Pratt, MD, and Kathy Matthews’ book SuperFoods Rx (New York, 2004), canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh pumpkin. It doesn’t contain the seeds but it is convenient and fairly inexpensive. Avoid canned pumpkin pie filling since it has sugar added to it and that is one food that not only doesn’t prevent disease but can cause it.