Not Just Another Pretty Face

Now that your jack-o-lantern has done its job of scaring away ghosts and goblins, I want to encourage you to look at your pumpkin in a new light.

Like all fruits and vegetables that are orange in color, pumpkins are high in the antioxidants alpha-carotene and beta-carotene (vitamin A), which studies have shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Pumpkins also contain flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, vitamin C, zeaxanthin, and zinc, all of which provide an array of benefits to eyes, skin, hair, and overall health, including:

Reduced risk of macular degeneration

Support for collagen formation—the matrix of firm, supple skin

Support for strong bones—in conjunction with calcium and magnesium

Reduced risk of prostate cancer

Reduced menopausal symptoms (joint pain, hot flashes, headaches)

Reduced blood pressure

Lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol

Healthy joints

Optimal pH balance

Neutralizing harmful free radicals

Support for a strong immune system

Vitamin C, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant that works to improve and repair damaged or aging skin and promote the production of collagen, which improves your skin’s elasticity.

Pumpkin also is rich in the B vitamins niacin, riboflavin, B6, and folate. Niacin boosts circulation and is beneficial for treating acne and other skin blemishes, while folate encourages cell renewal, leaving you with clearer skin. The potassium and zinc in pumpkin also promote healthy hair growth, helping to maintain collagen and stimulate individual hair growth through improved blood circulation.

So, eat your pumpkin! While most people are familiar with finding pumpkin in pie, it also can be roasted and eaten like any winter squash. The meat can also be steamed and mashed, like sweet potatoes, or steamed and pureed for soup.

And don’t forget about the seeds! Like all embryonic foods (eggs, nuts, and seeds), pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses, packed with copper, fiber, magnesium, manganese, Omega 3 fats, protein and zinc, along with plant compounds known as phytosterols and phytoestrogens. Raw seeds are the healthiest, so that the healthy fats aren’t destroyed by heating. However, if you prefer roasted, it’s easy to roast them yourself in an oven set low (170-degrees), perhaps sprinkled with salt, for 15-20 minutes.

Here’s another special treat that makes use of pumpkin:

Pumpkin hand treatment

Puree enough pumpkin to yield a half-cup. Add a dash of almond or olive oil and 1 t. of raw honey. (The heat of pasteurization destroys the health benefits of honey.) Blend these together until you have a smooth paste and massage it into your hands. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.


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