The Great Pumpkin

News Note

By Lara Evans Bracciante

Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, October/November 2003.

During this harvest season, you may want to consider carving up your pumpkin for a soup recipe rather than a jack-o’-lantern. The orange pigment of pumpkin is rich in carotenoids — specifically beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene — which are powerful antioxidants with cancer-fighting properties. Studies have specifically shown the compounds in pumpkin help ward off lung, colorectal, breast, uterine and prostate cancers. Furthermore, carotenoids can boost immunity, help eyesight and protect cells from ultra-violet radiation.

Pumpkin seeds also provide nutritional value, serving as a source for niacin (lowers cholesterol), potassium (stimulates heart health) and zinc (boosts immunity). In Eastern Europe, the seeds have been recommended for the prevention and treatment of enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). Chemicals in pumpkin seeds, known as cucurbitacins, along with zinc, appear to help shrink the prostate, while the seeds’ amino acids relieve BPH symptoms. Pumpkin seeds also serve as a diuretic and have a reputation for expelling intestinal parasites.

The seeds can be baked (rinse, lay flat on cookie sheet, add salt if desired, bake at 250–300 degrees until papery and light) or infused into a tea (grind the seeds, boil in water for 15–20 minutes, strain).