It’s Pumpkin Time – Fun to Carve and Healthy to Eat! by Dr. Chad Laurence
Fall is here in its red and gold glory. Time to decorate your home with gourds, Halloween decorations, and good-looking pumpkins! But wait – did you know that your jack o’lantern is much more than just a pretty (or scary!) face? Consuming pumpkin and pumpkin seeds offers loads of health benefits as well.
The First Pumpkins
The term pumpkin came from the Greek word pepon, meaning “large melon,” although pumpkins are thought to have originated in Central America. Native Americans have used pumpkins in countless ways for centuries, weaving dried pumpkin strips into mats, cooking pumpkin over fire, and incorporating pumpkin in folk medicines. The early American colonists found that they could remove the seeds of a pumpkin and fill the shell with milk, honey, and a variety of spices, and then use hot ashes to bake the tasty concoction.
Pumpkins are valuable sources of vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids give pumpkins their orange, and occasionally yellowish, color. Some studies have shown these free radical fighters help prevent cataracts, promote eye health, and reduce the risk of macular degeneration, which can cause blindness. The carotene in pumpkin helps reduce inflammation in the body, and several studies suggest pumpkin can even help slow the aging process. Pumpkin contains such essential minerals as zinc and iron. Zinc deficiency can contribute to osteoporosis, and iron is an essential component of the red blood cells. Pumpkin is also rich in the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Besides being chock full of fiber, which aids in intestinal and bowel health, pumpkins are rich in vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, as well as B-complex.
For those trying to lose weight in a healthy way, the welcome news is that pumpkin is naturally low in calories and fat. Pumpkin’s nutrients also assist in lowering the risk of heart disease and enhancing the immune system, and can be beneficial in managing bladder infections, kidney stones, and some parasitic/intestinal problems.
And there’s more good news: pumpkin seeds are also rich in nutrients and make a delicious snack! Dark green in color, they’re often sold in jars or bags, either raw or toasted. The seeds are a nice addition to salads and mixed vegetables, and pumpkin seed oil can be added to an assortment of salad dressings. Some studies suggest that eating pumpkin seeds promotes prostate health and stronger bones, acts as an anti-inflammatory measure for various body joints, and introduces phytosterols, which have been shown to lower cholesterol.
Enjoy Them and Eat Them
Pumpkins are fun to use as decorations, great fun to carve, and are an excellent dietary addition. So the next time you carve a pumpkin, use the seeds and meat. But a word of advice: organic as they are, if you don’t cook with the innards, be careful about tossing them into your backyard.
You may discover you have a wildly spreading pumpkin patch the following year!
Dr. Chad Laurence is a distinguished fellow of Chiropractic Biophysics. His practice, Corrective Chiropractic, is located at 7503-A Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, DE. Contact:302-234-1115, firstname.lastname@example.org, or correctivechiro.net.