Pumpkins, a Healthy Treat for a Healthy Lifestyle
Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbita plant family which are native to many parts of the world, and are now cultivated in many countries. The curcurbitas are part of the gourd family, and many cultures the world over grow the different species for their wonderful tasty fruit and edible seeds. The gourds, squashes, pumpkins, zucchini, acorn squash, cantaloupes, even cucumbers all have unique culinary uses and pumpkins, in particular, are loaded with nutritional value. The pumpkin is a fruit that is so surprisingly rich and flush with significant antioxidants that they are easily overlooked. For many cultures, the change of seasons and the fall and winter months have often been synonymous with pumpkins. The pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, have been found in parts of Mexico reaching back nearly as far as 5500 BC, and research has shown that Native American tribes had more than a basic understanding of this timeless fruit, they were well versed in the health benefits, as well as the nutritional value of pumpkins and their seeds. Many different tribes consumed the pumpkin seeds dry or fresh for medicinal purposes for kidney and urinary support, many early Native Americans used the seed oil for an effective treatment for wounds and burns; there were a variety of ways pumpkins were used, as well as prepared, such as baked, dried, roasted, boiled, and parched.
Rich in Nutritional Value, this timeless fruit has a host of health benefits, and is so very rich in antioxidants. The beta carotene and Alpha-carotene found in pumpkins helps to fight heart disease and certain cancers; so rich in potassium, this super food helps to fend off hypertension, as studies have suggested that diets that include potassium rich foods such as pomegranates, broccoli, bananas, pumpkins, and other foods loaded with potassium helps to lower the potential for hypertension. Additionally, pumpkins are rich in vital nutrients such as zinc, iron, lutein, zeaxanthin, selenium, Vitamins A, C, E, the B complex group of vitamins, manganese and magnesium. There is something very special about pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, they are not only a healthy snack, but are loaded with vitamins, fiber, protein and minerals. Studies have shown that their seed oil is very high in plant-based fatty acids which have shown to be beneficial in the contribution to the reduction of the levels of blood cholesterol.
Pumpkins have an abundant supply of carotenoids, which are invaluable in neutralizing free radicals, the lutein and zeaxanthin that are in abundant supply in pumpkins help prevent the formation of cataracts, and other serious eye problems, particularly macular degeneration; and the high fiber content helps support good heart and bowel health. Pumpkin seed oil has significant amounts of essential fatty acids which promote healthy nerves, blood vessels, and assists in the lubrication of all tissues, even the skin. Pumpkin seed oil even helps to fight off infection by stimulating the T cells of the immune system, and the vitamin E in the oil also helps to rid the body of disruptive free radicals. One very interesting fact of pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, is the anti-inflammatory arthritis relief suggested in certain studies, and the healthy positive effect they have on joint health by not increasing the fat levels in the lingus joints, which many suffer as a side effect from certain common anti-inflammatory drugs; and pumpkins seeds have been touted to promote prostate health.
There are many tempting ways to use pumpkins or pumpkin spice, whether it is in pies, cookies, muffins, marbled cheesecake, stews, custards, eggnog, even coffee, the ideas are limited only by your imagination. It is noted that the Pilgrims were known to make an early colonial pumpkin beer, a brew that consisted of pumpkins, hops, persimmons, and maple sugar. It is well-known that herbs and spices play an important part in maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle, one such spice, among many, is the pumpkin spice. Spices that blend so well with pumpkin, and are enjoyed in culinary delights from decadent desserts to entrees, are nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The spices in varying amounts add a level and depth of richness to any meal. Low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals, it is not surprising that pumpkins are a healthy treat that help to promote a healthy lifestyle.