We have all had them on our front porch every October, carved into the scary faces to make the little kiddies scared to come up on the porch to get the handout of candy for trick-or-treat, and tempted the more mischievous older kids to smash them in the street.
And what would a giant air cannon be without the amazing round, naturally grown projectiles that so called “punkin chunkers” love to send hurtling through the air hoping to not get “pie in the sky.” Let’s not forget desert, what would Thanksgiving or Christmas be without pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream and a nice cup of coffee.
Believe it or not, yes. With its high fiber content and very low calories, pumpkin is chock full of disease-fighting nutrients like potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. Not to mention that pumpkin contains more bioavailable carotenoids than any other fruit or vegetable known. Bioavailability is in laymens terms, the ease with which the body may absorb and utilize the nutrients it needs. The most familiar carotenoid, one you have probably heard of, is beta-carotene.
Where else can carotenoids be found?
Fruits and vegetables containing carotenoids usually have a dark or an orange color, to name some; sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins (of course), cantaloupe, apricots, spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes. Vegetable drinks are an excellent way to consume vegetables for people that don”t like eating them or that have trouble with the fiber. Say you have a picky child that puts up a fight at the dinner table; well maybe it would be easier to get them to drink their vegetables than eat them.
What are the health benefits?
Carotenoids are believed to play an active role in the prevention of heart disease and some types of cancer such as, lung, cervical, breast, colon, bladder, as well as certain types of melanoma.
Pumpkin contains so much, that a mere one half-cup serving of pumpkin will provide you with over two times the recommended daily allowance of alpha-carotene and two times the recommended daily allowance of beta-carotene. Pie is a tasty way to get that serving too.
Studies have shown that women with higher concentrations of carotenes in their diet had the lower risks of breast cancer, not to mention the fact that carotenes have also been shown to decrease risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Not bad for a nutrient that was pretty much unknown until the 1980’s. One important fact to be aware of however is that supplements for these amazing nutrients don’t work, you have to consume the actual fruit or vegetable to get it, fresh is best, but frozen or canned is good too.
As a matter of fact a study in Finland in 1996 on male smokers showed there were actually a higher number of lung cancer cases for persons taking the supplement compared to persons not taking them. Another amazing benefit of the high contents of alpha-carotene found in pumpkin, believe it or not, is that alpha-carotene has been shown to actually help to slow the aging process.
So apparently there really is a fountain of youth and its pumpkin.