November, thoughts of Pumpkins and Thanksgiving

Mention pumpkin and most people think Halloween and Thanksgiving (in the UK we call it Harvest Festival). If this is the only time you buy a pumpkin you are missing out on a very nutritious food.

The Native Americans used it as both a food and a medicine.
The pumpkin flesh is extremely high in carotenoids, plant-compounds that give the vegetable it’s orange colour. Carotenoids are really good at neutralizing free-radicals, as they are powerful antioxidants that can protect cell membranes from damage.

Pumpkins are also high in other plant compounds such as lutein and zeaxanthin, protecting the lens of the eye. This means prevention of cataracts and reduction of the risk of macular degeneration which is a serious eye problem. Pumpkins are also a rich source of other nutrients like iron, zinc, and fibre.

Pumpkin has a mild laxative effect, the juice has been used to help heal ulcers and reduce high acidity levels in the body. It is also useful in cases of insomnia, as it has mild sedative properties. Pumpkin is also indicated in cases of hormonal imbalances and menopausal discomfort.

Traditionally, the external use of pumpkin was recommended for treating burns, inflammatory conditions, abscesses, insect stings, and softening the skin, the crushed pulp was used, and changed daily until healing was complete.

The whole pumpkin cooked –

 pumpkin

I sometimes cook it stuffed with some of my favourite recipes, I place the whole thing into the oven. This saves me cutting, peeling and chopping it. I get a medium sized one, cut the top off and scoop out the seeds. I put a cooked mixture inside, this is up to you, any of your favourite fillings would do great. For instance, I cook a mixture of vegetables and beans in a green Thai curry sauce with coconut milk. I place the cooked veggie curry, or chicken curry inside the pumpkin and replace the top. I then place the whole pumpkin in a medium heat oven for about two to three hours depending on the size of the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is cooked remove from the oven and serve with the top off, it looks really good.

Pumpkin pie has been a traditional favourite at Thanksgiving. They make great soups or a vegetable to accompany the main meal. It’s a versatile vegetable.

Pumpkins seeds contain phytosterols, essential fatty acids (EFAs). These EFAs have many benefits that protect blood vessels, nerves, the skin, and they can help reduce cholesterol levels. Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, one ounce of seeds provides about seven grams of protein. They contain copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, plus vitamin A which helps keep your eyes, skin and mucous membranes healthy. Stimulate the T cells of the immune system to help fight off infection. The seeds also contain vitamin E, have excellent free-radicals properties that protect the circulatory system.

The seeds are probably most renowned for helping protect the prostate.
Studies into the health benefits of the seeds have revealed they contain a plant chemical (photo-compound) called cucurbitacins that can prevent the body from converting testosterone into a much more potent form of the hormone called dihydrotestosterone, thought to be the reason the seeds protect the prostate. Keep the seeds in the refrigerator.

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