I was recently reminded of many trips I’ve taken to the Pumpkin Patch . I video’d some information about pumpkins. Today, I’d like to write more for you because the more you know about pumpkin’s tremendous health benefits, the more likely you will eat them.
And that’s good for you!
I actually love pumpkin spiced lattes and tea… pumpkin seeds on my salad and pumpkin soup! Pumpkin pie, mmm! I love all of it. Pumpkins should be eaten because of their taste, plus all their healing benefits. If you’d like to get THE most amazing pumpkin bread recipe ever, CLICK HERE. (There are more recipes on my site, you can just put “pumpkin” in the search box.)
From a botanists point of view, pumpkins are fruits, but we think of them as savory and often refer to them as a vegetable. Whatever you want to call the beautiful gourd, just know that it has healthy essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals galore, all proven to support good health. A little-known fact is that pumpkins are good for hair loss.
One STUDY showed that men dealing with androgenetic alopecia could regrow their hair at a rate of 40 percent!
Also, research shows how pumpkin-derived compounds improve a myriad of health conditions ranging from bad cholesterol ratios, to insomnia, to cardiovascular disease and even diabetes. This is because both pumpkin puree and their seeds have a special nutritional profile.
Not only is the flesh from the incredible pumpkin good for you, but its seeds and the extracted oil are an amazing powerhouse of healthy nutrients, especially when cooked. I mean you can’t eat it raw! But of course you know that…
Pumpkin is one of those fibrous, thick-fleshed foods. The cooking makes it palatable. Plus, the heat allows for more nutrition and easier absorption of the nutrients. It’s this way with all gourds. Like other rind-y squashes such as acorn squash and butternut squash, pumpkins are best eaten roasted, boiled, baked, or braised in something such as cider, butter or oil.
Flavonoids found in pumpkins have undeniable powerful antioxidant phytonutrients that are especially protective of the brain, heart and DNA.
Being among the orange-family, pumpkins are high in carotenoids. Most people associate carotenoids with the most famous one, beta carotene, which in your body helps form vitamin A. You can watch my Pumpkin Video too.
Some people can’t convert the plant-derived carotenes to vitamin A in their body due to a genetic SNP in their BCOM1 gene. Those of you that have that SNP (like my hubby) could benefit from eating foods high in vitamin A, or taking a vitamin A supplement and skipping the beta carotene supplement. Follow me?
Since eating foods high in beta carotene doesn’t matter a whole lot – the conversion to A is not happening – you hack it by eating foods high in vitamin A (as opposed to plant foods high in beta carotene). The vitamin A is needed to protect your retina, and your eyesight. Pumpkin seeds are not high in vitamin A, they’re high in carotenoids, just FYI. Enough on this tangent…
Pumpkin’s natural assortment of compounds fascinates researchers due to the unique array of antioxidant carotenes and vitamins. These are good for you because they offset dangerous pro-inflammatory cytokines which lead to cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid, widespread pain, as well as lupus and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Like butternut, pumpkins are a very good source of beta carotene, which happens to be the most commonly known carotenoid. It’s a precursor to vitamin A since we take beta carotene from plants, and as humans, we have the ability to convert this to vitamin A internally.
One cup of cooked pumpkin provides 245% of the RDA for vitamin A.
Pumpkins have about 16% of the RDA of potassium and 11% of the RDA for riboflavin, manganese, and copper. I mentioned riboflavin in my video too, it’s hard to get enough support for your adrenal glands. Taking B2 riboflavin supplements sometimes turns your urine yellow. This vitamin occurs naturally in pumpkin!
By the way, if you have diabetes, pumpkins are good for you. They’re not too starchy, yielding only 12 grams of carbs per cup. But, if you’re talking about a pumpkin muffin, the carb count just skyrocketed!
Pumpkin puree is healthy. I think the pumpkin seeds hold even more value. Greenish-white in color, buttery pumpkin seeds are some of the most nutritious seeds on planet Earth. These superfoods are literally bursting with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, iron, fiber, antioxidants, and trace minerals. I roast mine at home, and if I don’t have time, I buy commercial brands of roasted, salted pumpkin seeds.
In fact, I keep roasted, salted pumpkin seeds in a mason jar on my counter (you’ve probably seen the jar in my youtube videos). You can do this too, and dump it into salads, sautéed chard, avocado toast and more. In fact, pumpkin seeds contain some vitamins in a more bioavailable form than other sources. I sprinkle pumpkin seeds on many foods, pretty much on a daily basis.
10 impressive reasons to eat pumpkins and their seeds:
This compound promotes both skin and eye health. You might not have heard about squalene, but this antioxidant acts similarly to beta-carotene, and it protects your skin from UV light damage and other forms of potentially dangerous radiation. There is also evidence that the compound is involved in retinal health. As pumpkin seeds are an excellent natural source of squalene, eating them helps with your vision/eyesight and beauty.
2. Alpha and Beta Carotene
Alpha carotene is one of the most abundant carotenoids in the body. Like beta carotene, the body converts alpha carotene into vitamin A to help you maintain vision, a healthy immune system and a strong skeletal system.
We have also learned about alpha carotene’s strong powers for maintaining heart health and protecting the body from cancer.
In a 2011 STUDY, researchers confirmed that high concentrations of alpha carotene are strongly correlated with a reduced risk of all the following:
Another STUDY found that those with high levels of alpha carotene were less likely to die from heart disease in their lifetime. Alpha carotene is very similar to beta carotene. They’re both carotenoids.
Beta-cryptoxanthin or Beta-cryp as I’ll call it for short is found in high concentrations in pumpkins. Beta-cryptoxanthin is another carotenoid that we transform into vitamin A in the body. There is a study that suggests beta-cryptoxanthin has been found to reduce a person’s chance of developing nicotine-induced lung cancer, so if you’re a smoker, eat pumpkins!
Like many plant-derived antioxidants it has a color. Beta-cryp is yellow in color. It’s mainly found in yellow or orange foods like corn, oranges, persimmons, yellow peppers, as well as egg yolks and butter. If what you’re eating is yellow, then, there’s a strong chance it has beta-cryptoxanthin in it. It has also been identified in human blood and tissue samples.
Beta-cryp is another carotenoid that we transform into vitamin A in the body, but the conversion is not to the extent of beta carotene. Beta-cryp is a super strong antioxidant helpful to people with respiratory (lung) issues or autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. One trial suggests it can reduce nicotine-induced lung cancer by about 24%.
4. Vitamin E
Pumpkin seeds contain natural vitamin E including gamma tocopherol. Vitamin E protects the outside wall of our fragile cells and protects them from free radical damage. The gamma-tocopherol content of pumpkin seeds is particularly high, at 19 mg per 100 gram serving. Gamma tocopherol, we have recently learned, has powerful cancer protective properties, helping specifically with both colon and prostate cancer.
Pumpkin seeds contain a unique array of vitamin E forms that you don’t get in most supplements. Seeds contain gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, and gamma-tocomonoenol — with the last two forms being highly bioavailable forms of vitamin E to the body.
This means that the seeds contain a diverse, unique array of vitamin E forms that you cannot get in a supplement. But you can get these forms from eating the seeds. For example, seeds contain typical isomers of E such as gamma-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol, as well as alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol – these last two isomers are unique and newly discovered forms of vitamin E.
But what does that mean for you? It means the magic seeds from pumpkin give you natural vitamin E, and Vitamin E is a strong lipid (fat-loving) antioxidant that protects the outside wall of our fragile cells and protects them from free radical damage.
This theoretically reduces lipid peroxidation and inflammation throughout your body, but it depends on the study you read of course. Studies using supplements may not work, because again, the supplements don’t have all the forms of vitamin E that they should. CLICK HERE if you’d like to read an eye-opening article, The Truth About Natural E (As Opposed to Other Kinds).
As one researcher notes about the 2 newly-discovered isomers called alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol:
“…have only recently been discovered in pumpkin seeds, and their health benefits — including antioxidant benefits — are a topic of current interest in vitamin E research, since their bioavailability might be greater than some of the other vitamin E forms.”
The bottom line: Pumpkin seeds’ vitamin E content may bring us more health benefits than we would ordinarily expect due to the diverse forms of vitamin E found in this food.
As I mentioned, the natural gamma-tocopherol content of pumpkin seeds is particularly high, at 19 mg per 100 gram serving. Gamma tocopherol, we have recently learned, has powerful cancer protective properties, helping specifically with both colon and prostate cancer.
Here’s a fun fact, there are more than 600 types of carotenoids in fruits and vegetables! I’ve mentioned alpha and beta carotene already, but there are hundreds of these special nutrients! And pumpkin seeds contain some of the strongest carotenoids, as well as a wide array of polyphenols, tannins (which are also found in black and green tea), and other phytonutrients that fight numerous diseases and help armor our body against free radicals.
Carotenoids are vitamin A precursors and powerful anti-inflammatory and cell-protective antioxidants. These help keep your skin beautiful and also support eyesight. Vitamin A is also needed for a healthy immune system.
Phytosterols occur naturally in pumpkin seeds, and many other seeds. They are plant-derived steroids, and resemble the chemical structure of the steroid cholesterol which everyone has heard about. Sterols (again, these are from plants) are used today to help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and LDL ratios. You can buy sterols in supplemental form.
Perhaps the most interesting and significant of the phytonutrients in pumpkin seeds are lignans. Lignans exhibit anti-estrogenic activity in the body which help to balance hormones and PROTECT the body against hormone-dependent cancers, like breast cancer. Lignans are also found in flax seed. Digested lignans which enter our bloodstream are termed enterolactones.
This category of compounds are made by you. Your microflora (intestinal friendly bacteria sometimes referred to as probiotics) digest and break down plant chemicals from your diet and make these enterolactones. They’re good for you and you form this compound in your gut after eating pumpkin (or flax) seeds.
You can call them enterolactones, but again, they are just simple lignin metabolites (break down products) and they work as powerful antioxidants, reducing risk for cancer. A study years ago found that enterolactones helped with LDL oxidation (and therefore heart disease).
So far, we know from studies that increased consumption of foods high in lignans (such as from the seeds of flax and pumpkin) can help with breast and/or prostate cancer. It’s because of their antioxidant power, and also their ability to blunt the effect of excessive estrogen, which drives cancer cells to proliferate.
Controlling estrogen can sometimes slow hormone-receptive cancers. In my pharmacy world, traditional medications are used in breast cancer. These are called “aromatase inhibitors” and are drugs to control excessive production of estrogen (think of these brand names: Arimidex, Aromasan and Femara).
This is what the research shows about enterolactones:
** Blunt and block the activity of estrogen in the body by mimicking estrogen and binding to estrogen receptors.
** Reduce tumor growth in some breast cancer patients
** Reduce postmenopausal breast cancer risk by 40% and all-cause mortality risk by 42% you can read the STUDY for more details.
** Researchers in a study concluded that the lignans in flaxseed might prevent cancerous cells from spreading in some men with localized prostate cancer.
** Those with diets high in enterolactones (remember, these compounds are formed after eating pumpkin seeds) are up to 82% less likely to get prostate cancer!
Studies done on pumpkin seeds and their extract suggest they can effectively treat symptoms of an overactive bladder which makes it hard to control the urge to urinate. Human studies were conducted over the years and the “urgency” and overall bladder function may improve with pumpkin.
These benefits take time,and obviously depend on so many individual factors of course, but it seems to me that that post-menopausal women (and post-andropausal men) will likley experience some type of reduction in nighttime urinary frequency (and better sleep) as well as higher quality of life, if pumpkins, seeds and pumpkin seed oil are part of their diet.
Some research suggests that men aged 50 to 80 who took a pumpkin seed extract (a supplement) experienced a 40% increase in urine flow (good!) and 30% reduction in urinary frequency, compared to a sugar pill.
Eating pumpkins will make you happy. They’re high in tryptophan which is an amino acid that converts in your body to the famous mood-boosting serotonin! This neurotransmitter is what SSRI drugs target too. And this is fascinating, a 2012 study found that pumpkin seed consumption was more effective at relieving symptoms of depression than the prescribed antidepressant Imipramine!
So again, pumpkins, seeds and extracted oil are very high in the amino acid tryptophan and this could boost mood and relieve anxiety through it’s conversion in your body to serotonin.
Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, a naturally relaxing mineral. Magnesium runs low in people due to the drug mugger effect of coffee, which many of you drink. Half of U.S. adults under 70 and 70-80% of elderly adults are deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium may support healthier levels of blood sugar levels and/or blood pressure. A recent study found that people who consume diets rich in magnesium correlate with a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes (males) and a 34% lower risk (females).
In a recent STUDY, women who supplemented with pumpkin seed oil supplements experienced reduced diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of a reading) by 7% and increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels by 16%.
This is kind of amazing when you consider that pumpkins really have no adverse side effects, as compared to statins which -while stronger- sometimes lead to unexpected problems due to the CoQ10 depletion. Speaking of nutrient depletions, and how they lead to diseases (that you probably don’t have!) you should get a copy of my relatively famous book, Drug Muggers: Which Medications are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients and How to Restore Them
Pumpkins when boiled, have about 1.5mg of natural iron for every cup. While that may not seem like very much, it is for sure a gentle way to improve anemia while also getting your antioxidants. Pumpkin seeds which offer fiber, happen to have more iron, about 2.5mg per cup. So one way to get this benefit is to eat the roasted seeds, or use them occasionally as part of your breading or crusts, or toppings on casserole.
It’s all good news if you love pumpkins. No matter what time of year, you can eat pumpkin seeds or use pumpkin seed oil. I praise pumpkins for their ability to fight inflammation, cancer, aging skin, poor vision, diabetes, lupus, lung issues, rheumatoid and multiple sclerosis.
CLICK HERE to get Jackie-Jo’s Heirloom Pumpkin Bread.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.