Every year as the month of October rolls around, you will usually see an array of pumpkins used to decorate homes in anticipation of Halloween. Regardless of if they are carved jack-o-lantern style or are used to create a scrumptious pumpkin pie, the pumpkin has so much to offer.
According to Hubpages.com, the pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbita family which also consists of squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins are also considered a fruit due to the fact that it has seeds. In fact its name was even derived from the Greek word “pepon” meaning large melon.
Natives used pumpkins for a variety of functions including healing. Certain tribes used pumpkin seeds to help heal wounds. In addition, pumpkin seed oil was used to treat burns and wounds and was also used as a medicine for kidney support. They were also recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites. Modern folk healers even believe the pumpkin to be beneficial in ridding the body of intestinal worms and also believe that the ground stem of the pumpkin brewed into a tea may help ease women during their menstrual cycle.
Regardless of if they can truly make freckles disappear or ease cramps, pumpkins do contain a variety of phenomenal nutritional aspects. They are made up of 90 percent water and are antioxidant rich. Here are some of the wonderful antioxidants that pumpkins provide:
Beta Carotene- Indicated by their bright orange color, pumpkins are a great source of the important antioxidant, beta carotene. Research has indicated that diets rich in beta carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and protects against heart disease. It also prevents some degenerative aspects of aging.
Potassium- Studies show people who have a potassium rich diet lower the risk for hypertension. Other potassium rich foods include bananas, broccoli, avocados, pomegranate and many others.
Zinc- Not only is zinc a major boost for your immune system, it also aids in bone density support for people at risk for osteoporosis.
Fiber- Diets rich in fiber may prevent cancer, heart disease and other serious ailments.
Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to a healthy prostate. The protective compounds present within the seed of the pumpkin, called phytosterols, may be responsible for shrinking the prostate. They also contain chemicals that may prevent some transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT are associated with enlarged prostate.
There are also plenty of yummy and healthy options available to you when cooking pumpkins. According to Bellaonline.com, pumpkins have a rich flavor, are highly nutritious and have a long storage capability. If you plan to cook with your pumpkin and not just carve it up for the front porch, choose a “pie pumpkin” or a “sweet pumpkin.” These pumpkins are generally smaller than jack o-lantern pumpkins, their flesh is sweeter and they contain less water. Also choose pumpkins without blemishes or soft spots for the best and healthiest pumpkins.
In addition to pumpkin pie, this versatile fruit can be used in a myriad of other delectable recipes including bread, muffins, soups, stew and side dishes. Pumpkins and most other varieties of winter squash can be used interchangeably in recipes. Use pumpkins in recipes calling for squash or even sweet potatoes.