It’s all about the pumpkin!
It is that time of year again when the leaves are turning a symphony of beautiful colours, the air is feeling a little crisp and pumpkins can be seen at our doorsteps. When most of us think of pumpkins, we think of Halloween, autumn and homemade pumpkin pie. Often, the main health benefits of pumpkins are overlooked. So to honour my favourite gourd (sorry butternut squash), here are some of the health benefits of pumpkins. Note: pumpkin spiced lattes do not count!
1. Immune health!
According to the USDA, 100g of roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds contains 10.3mg of zinc. That is right around the 8-11mg per day recommended by Canada’s food guide. Zinc plays a vital role in our immune system and zinc deficiency has been shown to lead to a weak immune system. So having pumpkin seeds daily could protect you from getting a cold!
2. Men, help your prostate!
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a common issue for men over the age of 50. Pumpkin seed oil has been shown to reduce the urinary symptoms in men when taken for a 12 week period. A recent study also found that men eating pumpkin seeds also saw a reduction in their BPH systems.
3. Magnesium boost
Magnesium deficiency is a very common problem in our society today due to our diets and medications. This is a concern as magnesium can help with a variety of health concern including muscle aches, PMS and sleep issues. 1 cup of roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds contains 168mg of magnesium, which can help to make sure you are getting enough magnesium.
4. Pumpkins get an “A” for eye health!
Pumpkins seeds are not the only healthy part of a pumpkin. 1 cup of mashed boiled pumpkin fruit contains a whooping 14000 IUs of vitamin A. That is 4.5 times the 3000 IUs recommended daily for men. Vitamin A can help with night time vision and for the maintenance of healthy skin. As small note of caution to the pregnant ladies out there, taking a multi with vitamin A and eating a lot of mashed pumpkin fruit might lead you to ingest too much vitamin A. Too much vitamin A in pregnancy might cause harm to a developing baby.
5. Help with diabetes!
One of the historical uses of pumpkins is to help lower blood sugar in diabetics. New research is finding that certain nutrients found in the pumpkin fruit, seeds and protein can have a hypoglycaemic effect. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in fibre and protein, which both can help with high blood sugar.
Bonus: Pumpkin seeds taste great!
Don’t throw away your pumpkin seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds can make a yummy and nutritious snack. I have included some tips on how to roasted pumpkin seeds from one of my favourite food blogs Oh See Glows.
How To Roast Pumpkin Seeds:
1.Clean the seeds. The annoying-but-necessary task is that you have to meticulously clean the seeds until there are no signs of pumpkin guts. The best way to do this is to plunk the seeds + guts into a big bowl of water and use your hands to break it apart. The seeds will float to the top of the water! They clean much faster this way.
2. Boil for 10 minutes in salt water. I added the pumpkin seeds to a medium-sized pot of water along with 1 tsp salt. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes over low-medium heat. Apparently, this method helps make the pumpkin seeds easier to digest and produces a crispy outer shell during roasting. If you are short on time, you can totally skip this step! They will still turn out lovely.
3. Drain the seeds in a colander and dry lightly with a paper towel or tea towel. The seeds will stick to the towel, but just rub them off with your fingers. Don’t worry, they don’t have to be bone dry – just a light pat down.
4. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (I only needed to use about 1/2-1 tsp). Massage oil into seeds and add fine grain sea salt. Try to spread out the seeds as thin as possible with minor overlapping.
5. Roast seeds at 325F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Roast for another 8-10 minutes (if your oven temp is wonky, this bake time could vary a lot!). During the last 5 minutes of roasting, remove a few seeds and crack open to make sure the inner seeds are not burning (you don’t want the inner seed brown). Cool a couple and pop them into your mouth to test. They are ready when the shell is super crispy and easy to bite through. The inner seed should have only a hint of golden tinge to it. They should not be brown.
6. EAT! Remove from oven (add some cinnamon and nutmeg - Jaclyn’s tip) and dig in! Ah, so good, so good! There is no need to remove the outer shell; it’s quite possibly the best part.
I hope everyone has a happy and healthy Halloween… and enjoy some pumpkin seeds!
Yours in health,
1. USDA. Basic Report 12163, Seeds, pumpkin and squash seeds, whole, roasted, without salt. National Nutrient Database for Standard ReferenceRelease 27 available at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3724
2. Health Canada. Dietary Reference Intakes. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/index-eng.php.
3. Shankar AH, Prasad AS. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68(suppl):447S–63S.
4. Gossell-Williams M, Davis A, O'Connor N. Inhibition of testosterone-induced hyperplasia of the prostate of Sprague-Dawley rats by pumpkin seed oil. J MEd Food 2006;9:284-286.
5. Vahlensieck W1, Theurer C, Pfitzer E, Patz B, Banik N, Engelmann U. Effects of Pumpkin Seed in Men with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms due to Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia in the One-Year, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled GRANU Study. Urol Int. 2014 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]
6. USDA. Basic Report: 11423, Pumpkin, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. National Nutrient Database for Standard ReferenceRelease 27 available at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3177.
7. Yadav M, Jain S, Tomar R, Prasad GBKS, Yadav H. Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review. Nutr Res Rev. Cambridge University Press; 2010 Dec;23(2):184–90.
8. Adams GG, Imran S, Wang S, Mohammad A, Kok MS, Gray DA, et al. The hypoglycemic effect of pumpkin seeds, Trigonelline (TRG), Nicotinic acid (NA), and D-Chiro-inositol (DCI) in controlling glycemic levels in diabetes mellitus. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(10):1322–9.