Pumpkin: Don’t just carve it, EAT it!

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is less than one week until Halloween. Have you carved your pumpkin yet?

It’s that time of the year to create those spooky “works of art” but while you are picking out the perfect pumpkins, maybe grab a couple extra for those holiday meals. That’s right! Pumpkin is actually a healthy food, not just a fancy Halloween decoration.

Pumpkins are well known for their use in Halloween art and decorations. Outside of this annual holiday, most people don’t know much of anything about them. Let’s take a look.

Pumpkin is an annual vine, also known as a “trailing plant,” that can be grown in most altitudes. There are 3 edible parts of the pumpkin: the seeds, the inner fruit, and its greens, each having their own beneficial nutritional profile. However, most pumpkins are sold without the leaves, so we’ll focus on the fruit and seeds here.

Pumpkin Seeds:

  • 1 ounce (about 28 grams) contains 150 calories, consisting of about 5 grams of carbs, 1.7 grams of fibre, 7 grams of protein and 13 grams of fat (half of which are unsaturated)
  • Rich source essential minerals (potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, copper, and zinc) and vitamin K
  • Good source of amino acid l-tryptophan, which may improve sleep quality
  • Pumpkin seeds contain D-chiro-Inositol, a compound demonstrated in research to have anti-diabetic properties, supporting insulin function.
  • The seeds also contain Peptide MW 8-kDa, which was shown to have anti-fungal properties, inhibiting the growth of several species of fungus.
  • Mature seeds have been shown to hold anti-carcinogenic effects through a compound called Moschatin, that inhibited tumor cell growth in one study.
  • An edible oil can be obtained from the pumpkin seeds that is rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat with numerous benefits, one of which is associated with lowering LDL cholesterol levels.

Pumpkin Fruit:

  • A 100 gram serving of pumpkin contains only 26 calories (7 grams of carbs + 1 gram of protein)
  • A good source of β-carotene (supports healthy eyesight)
  • Contains numerous vitamins and minerals (Folate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamins A/C/E/K, Calcium, Magnesium, and Iron)
  • Pumpkin fruit contains phenolic phytochemicals and protein-bound polysaccharides, shown to hold anti-diabetic properties, also supporting insulin function.
  • Pumpkin fruit extract, as well as pumpkin polysaccharides, have been demonstrated to have anti-oxidative properties. This is shown in research as the reduction of malondialdehyde, a compound in the human body that is a marker of oxidative stress..
  • Like its seeds, pumpkin fruit holds anti-carcinogenic compounds. Cucurmosin, MAP2, and MAP4 have all shown to inhibit cancerous tumor cell growth

Typically, the immature or unripened fruit is cooked as a vegetable. As the pumpkin matures and ripens, it begins to hold a sweeter taste. Aged pumpkin is used to make confectionaries and other beverages. In recent years, they have been used in various ales and ciders.

Supporting Your Workout

While most people will turn to bananas for their post-workout recovery, it turns that cooked pumpkin may have more to offer. It just so happens that 1 cup of cooked pumpkin has way more of that refueling potassium! Around 560 milligrams in pumpkin compared to around 420 found in a medium-sized banana.

The Genetic Factors

Now, understanding your genetics can play a key role in knowing if and how you would benefit from the consumption of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. This becomes very relevant when we look at certain genes. To understand this, let’s throw it in a chart to make it easier to understand.

PUMPKIN CURRY RECIPE (Halloween Theme)
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 piece of pumpkin or a small squash (around 1kg)
2 onion
2 garlic cloves
2 small fresh green or red chili peppers (one for cooking-diced + one for garnish-sliced)
Tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
1 Teaspoon curry powder.
3 Tablespoons tomato puree
1 Medjool date chopped
1 Teaspoon balsamic vinegar
200 grams Black Rice (cook according to packet instructions)

Instructions:

Dice the onions and chili, crush the Garlic and chop the pumpkin into small chunks.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions garlic and chili. Once the onions start to turn brown (10 mins) add a few spoons of water and reduce the heat before adding the spices.

Mix in the ground coriander, curry powder, tomato puree, balsamic vinegar and the date along with a cup of water and leave to cook on low heat forming a paste.

Continue to add spoons of water when necessary to stop the paste drying. Allow to cook for 10 minutes before adding the pumpkin and another cup of water.

Leave to cook on a low heat for 45 mins, as the flavours combine and the pumpkin softens.

Season to taste and serve on organic black rice. Top with sliced fresh green chilis.

References:

All About Pumpkins - Pumpkin History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 24, 2016, from http://www.allaboutpumpkins.com/history.html

Brown, M. J. (n.d.). Top 11 Science-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds. Retrieved October 24, 2016, from https://authoritynutrition.com/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds/

Klein, S. (2012, October 5). 8 Impressive Health Benefits Of Pumpkin | Huffington Post. Retrieved October 24, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/04/pumpkin-health-benefits_n_1936919.html

Yadav, M., Jain, S., Tomar, R., Prasad, G. B. K. S., & Yadav, H. (2010). Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review. Nutrition research reviews23(02), 184-190.

Written by Tyler Breedlove. Recipe by Leilah Isaacs

Wednesday, October 26, 2016