It is that time of the year when many will begin their search for the perfect pumpkin and spend countless hours figuring out how to carve it into a Jack-O-Lantern masterpiece. This is the time of the year when pumpkins will manifest into creatures during Halloween night; when mothers will spend countless hours in the kitchen making their homemade recipes of pumpkin pie and pumpkin rolls. This is also the time of the year where pumpkins adorn the walkway to houses and sweaters. However, while pumpkins may be useful as decorations for the fall season, they provide a greater purpose to serve as health benefits to the body.
Pumpkins are filled with many vitamins and minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and zinc. According to Rachel Levine, a writer for thefoodpaper.com, Levine emphasizes that pumpkins contain a wide source of beta-carotene, which is not only responsible for giving pumpkins their orange color, but helps fight against free radicals and reduces the risk of cancer. Pumpkins are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which scavenge free radicals in the lens of the eye. Therefore, they may help prevent the formation of cataracts and reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem that usually results in blindness. Levine also says that pumpkins are a good source of alpha-hydroxy which is commonly used to promote healthy looking skin.
Pumpkin extracts are used in many skin care products because of its alpha-hydroxy content. Alpha-hydoxy promotes smoother and younger looking skin because it helps increase cell renewal. According to carefair.com, a website that focuses on beauty and nutrition, pumpkin oil is very nourishing to the skin and has excellent lubricating properties, making it perfect for all skin types. In anti-aging terms, the presence of pumpkin seed oil on the skin can actually fight the appearance of fine lines and excessive dryness, allowing for proper hydration and prevention against moisture loss. Here are two directions to making a facial mask and body scrub as provided by carefair.com:
Facial Mask: Combine two teaspoons of cooked or canned pumpkin, ¼ teaspoon milk or whipping cream, and ½ teaspoon of honey in a small bowl. Next, apply the mixture to your complexion and use your fingertips to apply it in circular motions. Avoid the eye area. Let the mask sit for between 10-15 minutes and then rinse with warm water, pat dry and moisturize.
Body Scrub: Combine ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ½ cup cooked or canned, pureed pumpkin, and ½ cup brown sugar in a bowl. Now step into your bath or shower and use a damp washcloth to apply the scrub to your entire body, excluding your face. Use circular motions and work your way from your feet upwards. Once that’s been completed, rinse off completely and apply lotion/moisturizer as usual.
According to health.learninginfo.org, an online A-Z health reference, Native American tribes were among the first people to notice the beneficial aspects of pumpkin seeds. They used them to treat kidney problems and to eliminate intestinal parasites. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are found in mass quantities inside of pumpkins and provide many other health benefits. According to Lisa Mosing, MS, RD, FADA and special guest contributor to LifeScript.com, pumpkin seeds contain a chemical substance called cucurbitacins that can prevent the body from converting testosterone into a potent form of the hormone dihydrotestosterone which may be helpful, for supporting prostate health. Pumpkin seeds have also been shown to support strong bones and help to fight cholesterol and arthritic inflammation.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas from whfoods.com, an online food information website:
Add pumpkin seeds to healthy sautéed vegetables.
Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of mixed green salads.
Grind pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley and cilantro leaves. Mix with olive oil and lemon juice for a tasty salad dressing.
Add chopped pumpkin seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal.
Add pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal raisin cookie or granola recipe.
Next time you make burgers, whether it be from vegetables, turkey or beef, add some ground pumpkin seeds.
The next time you engage in pumpkin carving and are tempted to just throw out the inside, don’t! Save it and make a pumpkin pie and roast the pumpkin seeds. It would be a terrible waste to throw away all of those health benefits.