Pumpkins Are Not Just For Halloween
Most people think of Halloween when they hear the word pumpkin. If this is the only time you buy a pumpkin, you are missing out on a very nutritious food. The Native Americans used the pumpkin as both a food and a medicine. The first settlers from Europe added pumpkin to their diets.
The pumpkin flesh is extremely high in carotenoids, it is this plant compound that gives pumpkins their orange color. Carotenoids are really good at neutralizing free-radicals, as they are powerful anti-oxidants that can protect cell membranes from damage. It doesn’t end there pumpkins are also high in other plant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, which scavenge free-radicals in the lens of the eye. Helping to protect against the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem than usually results in blindness, very important as we get older. Pumpkins are also a rich source of other nutrients, like iron, zinc, and fiber.
Whole pumpkin – when I cook pumpkin, I cook a whole pumpkin stuffed with some of my favorite recipes, and I place the whole thing in to the oven. This saves me cutting peeling and chopping it. I get a smallish to medium pumpkin, cut the top off and scoop out the middle. I put a cooked mixture inside, for instance I cook a mixture of vegetables and beans in a green Thai curry sauce with coconut milk. I place the cooked veggie curry, or chicken and veggie curry, inside the pumpkin and replace the top. I place the whole stuffed pumpkin in a medium heated oven for about two to three hours depending on the size of the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is cooked remove from the oven and serve with the top off, it looks really good.
Pumpkin pie has been a traditional favorite at Thanksgiving. Pumpkins make great soups or a vegetable to accompany a main meal.
The flesh of the pumpkin has a mild laxative affect, being useful in cases of dyspepsia and constipation. Pumpkin juice has been used to help heal ulcers and reduce high acidity levels in the body, common these days. This juice needs to be drunk three times a day, half an hour before meals. It is also useful in cases of insomnia, as it has mild sedative properties. Pumpkin is also indicated in cases of hormonal imbalances and menopausal discomfort. Big pumpkins might be great at Halloween for caving up, but not that good for eating as they can be a bit tougher.
Traditional external use of pumpkin was recommended for treating burns, inflammatory conditions, abscesses, insect stings, and softening the skin, the crushed pulp was used, and changed daily until healing was complete.
Pumpkins seeds also contain phyto-sterols, essential fatty acids (EFAs). These EFAs have many benefits that protect blood vessels, nerves, protect all tissue, including the skin, and they can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. The pumpkin seeds are high in protein, one ounce of seeds provides about seven grams of protein. Contain copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. They also contains vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes healthy, your skin, mucus membranes, and stimulates the T cells of the immune system to help fight off infection. The seeds also contain vitamin E, has excellent free-radicals properties, protecting the circulatory system. The seeds are also renowned for helping protect the prostate.
Studies into the health benefits of pumpkin seeds have revealed they contain a plant chemical (phytocompound) called cucurbitacins that can prevent the body from converting testosterone into a much more potent form of the hormone called dihydrotestosterone, this is thought to be the reason the seeds protect the prostate health. Keep the seeds in the refrigerator.
Salad dressing – these three fresh ingredients are very easy to find at the local markets – parsley, garlic, pumpkins seeds, and cilantro – grind these three ingredients together add a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, use as a salad dressing. The herbs and spices that go well with pumpkin in general are parsley, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamoms.
Pumpkin and ginger soup
1 pumpkin small/medium, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons coconut oil (found in your local health store)
1 or 2, garlic clove depends on your taste
3 small leeks or onions
3 celery stalks, diced
3 quarts vegetable stock, optional
1 piece grated fresh ginger – size depends on how you like ginger
1 (15 ounce) coconut milk can or fresh
Salt and Pepper to taste
Sweat the garlic, onions and/or leeks in the coconut oil, then add the other ingredients and bring to the boil, lower the temperature and simmer until cooked. Then puree in a blender and then and the cilantro and serve with a decorative swirl of natural yogurt. Enjoy.
Sonia Jones ND
Naturopath, nutritional therapist and author of three published books
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