Fall Foods & Spices ~ Pumpkin

Those delightful fruits and spices we enjoy in autumn provide more than just a flavorful kick. Centuries -old use and modern research prove that fall staples like cranberries, pumpkins, and cinnamon pack powerful medicine inside.

Our autumn foods and seasonal spices are delicious, time – honored traditions that begin to ring in the holiday season and comfort our souls. Full of nourishing vitamins and minerals, they also contain some savory and surprising returns on health.

The Power of Pumpkin {Curcurbita pepo}

Each fall, many folks wait with bated breath for the beginning of “pumpkin spice season” at coffee shops and bakeries around the country. But unlike these often artificially flavored treats, real pumpkin and its seeds offer a bounty of healthful benefits.

Grand and distinct with handsome orange hues and dark-green vines, the pumpkin is always a welcome sight, heralding the start of autumn and the upcoming Halloween. Pumpkins are not a vegetable but in fact a fruit. Native to North and South America, they were staples in the indigenous diet and medicinal preparations. European explorers, introduced to the fruit by Native Americans, soon began exporting the seeds abroad for cultivation and they spread through Europe.

Modern Medicine:

Pumpkin’s sweet, nutty flavor lends itself well to soups and stews, baked goods, and smoothies. The high fiber content, about 7.1 grams in a cup of pumpkin puree, helps regulate healthy elimination and protect the cardiovascular system, while its high vitamin and mineral content offers superb nutrition, providing significant amounts of protein, magnesium, and iron, as well as vitamins A, B6, C and E. In fact, one serving {about one cup} has 200 percent of the recommended dietary allowance {RDA} of vitamin A, and the body readily converts it into beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant. Lycopene and lutein {also antioxidants}, abundantly found in pumpkin, can help eyesight and inhibit diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. And, of course, its antioxidants have a role in cancer prevention by scavenging cell – damaging free radicals and keeping cancer cells in check.

While pumpkin fruit is an amazing food, its seeds offer even more benefits. Also high in beta-carotene {more than carrots}; vitamins A, C, and E; fiber; and protein, they also provide generous amounts of zinc and magnesium, which help fight viruses and have a tonic effect for men by reducing inflammation in benign prostatic hyperplasia {BPH} and regulating/promoting testosterone production. Additionally, the seeds contain tryptophan, that soporific amino acid that boosts production of serotonin, encouraging restful sleep, calming nerves, and easing mild depression.

However, one of pumpkin seed’s most surprising actions is its use as an antiparasitic. A research study published in the September 2016 issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences found that pumpkin seeds are extremely effective in helping the body expel intestinal parasites, thanks to an amino acid called cucurbitacin, along with newly discovered berberine {found in goldenseal} in pumpkin. Hot- and cold-water extraction and alcohol extraction exhibited nematicidal {worm killing} effects on the parasites. The alcohol extract proved the most potent, purging both adult parasites and their eggs from the GI tract. The study concluded that pumpkin seed extract should be considered a safe and inexpensive alternative to some currently available treatments.

Pumpkins have few side effects. Too much can cause digestive disturbance due to the high fiber content. The seeds can trigger migraines for sensitive individuals.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Many of us like to reserve the seeds from pumpkins after a night of carving Jack – o -lanterns. The seeds taste great sprinkled over yogurt, combined in trail mixes, or just on their own with a little salt and pepper. Those concerned about phytic acid {which can block the absorption of certain minerals} can soak the seeds overnight to remove it.

1 cup organic hulled pumpkin seeds

1 Tsp. favorite seasoning

To toast, add to a dry pan and heat on low, stirring constantly until they are golden. Add a spice of your choice {curry or Cajun blends work well, as do sweeter seasonings like nutmeg and cinnamon} and stir to cover. Slide onto a plate to cool. Seeds spoil quickly; store in an airtight container in the fridge and they’ll keep for two months.

 

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