Health benefits of pumpkins: Cancer-fighting, wound healing and skin-protecting

Everyone loves summertime as it’s often spent sipping cocktails poolside, or floating the winding rivers of the Texas Hill Country (that is, if you’re from the Lone Star State). However, the change in season is greatly welcomed as the leaves begin to change colors, softly floating from the trees, and the air turns brisk and cool against your face.

While the days are still warm in Texas, the mornings and nights are now accompanied by a cool breeze, indicating that fall has arrived as October comes to an end.

If you’re like me, you adore fall and everything it has to offer, including get-togethers with family and friends, warm home cooked meals, holiday décor, good music and plenty of wine to go around!

One of my favorite fall stables is the pumpkin, as they make great decorations as well as delicious food and desserts. You may also be surprised to learn that they have some pretty amazing health benefits, reminding us all that we really should try to incorporate them into our diets more often.

If you’re going to whip up a pumpkin dish this holiday season, be sure to make use of the fruit’s meat and seeds.

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why, written by Jonny Bowden, describes why you should take advantage of pumpkins this holiday season.

Pumpkin seeds have“respectively high phytosterol content” writes Bowden, and are “second only to pistachio and sunflower kernels in the subgroup of foods commonly consumed as snacks.”

Phytosterols, or plant sterols, are great at lowering cholesterol and have been found to help protect against cancer, according to LiveStrong.com. Plant sterols’ anti-ageing benefits also help protect your skin.

Health benefits of roasted pumpkin seeds

“Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of minerals, especially magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus,” writes Bowden. “Interestingly, the roasted kind have far more protein, at least according to the USDA food database. (They also have a lot more calories.)

“The roasted kind also have way more magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as more zinc, fiber, and cancer-fighting selenium.

“Both have a nice amount of manganese, an important trace mineral that’s essential for growth, reproduction, wound healing, peak brain function, and the proper metabolism of sugars, insulin, and cholesterol.

“Ultimately, both the raw (dried) and the roasted are nutrient dense,” says Bowden.

‘Oils and Spices Can Multiply the Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seed’

Adding oils and spices to your roasted pumpkins is an easy trick that packs on even more nutrients, says Bowden.

“You can roast your own pumpkin seeds really easily and combine them with great oils and spices to multiply their health benefits even further.

“Try melting some organic butter or macadamia nut or olive oil then tossing in the pumpkin seeds and spreading them on a single layer on a baking sheet,” he says.

“Season ’em with turmeric, garlic, or cayenne pepper, and bake them till they’re crisp. You can also add pumpkin seeds to trail mix, sautéed vegetables, and salads, not to mention my favorite oatmeal.”

‘Can pumpkins decrease your risk for stroke?’

Like many orange foods, pumpkins are high in beta-carotene, as well as potassium and vitamin A.

Pumpkins are “actually a potassium heavyweight” says Bowden, as one cup of the mashed fruit contains just 49 calories along with a whopping 564 milligrams of potassium, which is about 33 percent more than medium-sized banana.

Bowden explains that “the balance between potassium and sodium is of critical importance to our health.

“Potassium works with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance. (One possible explanation for potassium’s protective effect against hypertension is that increased potassium may increase the amount of sodium excreted from the body.)”

Based on the fact that several large epidemiological studies show that increased potassium intake is associated with decreased risk of stroke, Bowden questions whether eating pumpkin could in turn limit your risk of having a stroke.

When it comes to pumpkins, their health benefits are clear. So take advantage of the fall season and pick some up today!

Additional sources:

Bowden, Jonny. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/26224-benefits-phytosterols/

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