Let’s see, there’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffins… wait, what was the question? Oh right, what is so good about pumpkin?
On Self Magazine’s Nutrition Data website, you can search thousands of foods and their nutritional stats from calories to fat grams and sodium to fibre. They also list “the good” and “the bad” of each food. The good is things like “high in magnesium” and the bad might be something like “high in saturated fat.” Pumpkin has no “bad.” It’s all good. One cup of raw pumpkin cubes has a mere 30 calories, over 100% of your daily Vitamin A requirements, 1 gram of fibre and a respectable amount of iron and Vitamin C. Curiously, the first food that comes up on the site’s list when you search for pumpkin is Cold Stone Creamery’s pumpkin ice cream. Not so curiously, it has some “bad”. In fact, it’s only “good” attribute is that it’s low in sodium. Yikes. Okay, back to real food.
Pumpkin season is here and although, like most fruits and veggies, you can find pumpkins year round, they really are one food that is distinctly associated with a season, especially in North America where Jack-O-Lantern carving for Halloween is a must and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving is as American as apple pie (you know what I mean!) And while we don’t usually feel healthy and virtuous while scarfing down that second hunk of pie, perhaps we should. According to www.bewellbuzz.com, we definitely should. They say that the vibrant orange colour tells us that pumpkins are high in carotenoids, the same antioxidants found in carrots that reduce free radical damage and help prevent heart disease. The seeds are high in phytosterols, a compound that can lower blood cholesterol levels and all parts of the pumpkin contain high amounts of magnesium, essential for growing bones and teeth. Oh, and if that weren’t enough to get you excited about pumpkin, canned or fresh, it’s an excellent source of zinc (necessary for a healthy immune system and reproductive health) and fibre (well, we know what that’s good for!). Plus, pumpkin contains L-tryptophan “a chemical compound that triggers feelings of well-being and happiness” and is said to help fight depression (it’s also found in turkey and no, it doesn’t make you tired, that’s a food myth. You’re just in a general food coma after Thanksgiving dinner, not to worry!) Another bonus? According to one study, reported in Science Daily and conducted at Tufts University, pumpkin packs an equal nutritional punch whether fresh or canned. Just be sure to buy pure canned pumpkin.
More potential good news for pumpkin lovers; according to recent research out of China, rats who were fed a diet supplemented with pumpkin for thirty days experienced a “36% increase in plasma insulin production” than untreated rats. According to the researchers, although more study is needed, these finding could lead to a “drastic reduction in the need for daily insulin injections for diabetic.s”
Of course, getting your pumpkin in “pie” form may not be what the doctors have in mind so branch out a little this pumpkin season. Add canned pumpkin to smoothies with nutmeg and cinnamon. Or try stirring a little into plain Greek yogurt. Add it to fall soups or save those seeds when “gutting” your pumpkins for Halloween and roast them in the oven with a littleolive oil and S & P for an uber-healthy snack. Oooh, have a theme night with the kids….carve the pumpkin, roast the seeds, have pumpkin soup and watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown….yes, I’m 10. One last thing: pumpkin skin is antibacterial and may provide some solutions to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance sooooo, if, during the fun and games of theme night, a little pumpkin skin should happen to swipe the nose of a certain snotty toddler with this week’s flu bug, what’s the harm…mmmmkay?
P.S. Did you know there are miniature varietals of pumpkins available called “Baby Boo, ‘Sweetie Pie’, ’Jack-Be-Little’ and ‘Munchkin’? Come on! Loving the cute overload (although I might have a problem hacking “Sweetie Pie” apart for seeds and pie)