Healthy Food – Pumpkin Does a Body Good

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Great day leader! Myself and the ILEAD Company® team welcomes you to Fitness Friday.

On Fridays, I will educate you on becoming mentally sound and physically fit. Nutrition and Fitness is influential!

With that being said, let’s chat about another super food that some people are not fond of but pay more attention to it during the Thanksgiving holiday… Pumpkin!

Healthy Food – Pumpkin Does a Body Good

Many of us rarely think of pumpkin as a food. We buy a pumpkin to carve at Halloween, then toss it in the trash once the trick-or-treaters go home. We only eat it once a year, if at all, in a Thanksgiving pie. Most people think of pumpkin as a decorative gourd rather than a highly nutritious and desirable food.

This is unfortunate because the squash known as a pumpkin is one of the most nutritionally valuable foods known to humanity. (By the way, the pumpkin is not a vegetable; it’s a fruit. Like melons, it’s a member of the gourd family.) Moreover, it’s inexpensive, available year-round in canned form, incredibly easy to incorporate into recipes, high in fibre, and low in calories. All in all, pumpkin is a real nutrition superstar.

The nutrients in pumpkin are really amazing. Extremely high in fibre and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the Superfoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man. Indeed, a half-cup serving of pumpkin gives you more than two times the recommended daily dietary intake of alpha-carotene. When you realize the tremendous benefits of these nutrients, you’ll see why pumpkin is such an extraordinary food.

Carotenoids are deep orange, yellow, or red-coloured, fat-soluble compounds that occur in a variety of plants. They protect the plants from sun damage while helping them attract birds and insects for pollination. So far, scientists have identified about six hundred carotenoids, and more than fifty of them commonly occur in our diet. Not all dietary carotenoids are efficiently absorbed however, and as a result, only thirty-four carotenoids have currently been found in our blood and breast milk.

Foods rich in carotenoids have been linked to a host of health- promoting and disease-fighting functions. They’ve been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including those of the lung, colon, bladder, cervix, breast, and skin. In the landmark Nurses’ Health Study. women with the highest concentrations of carotenes in their diets had the lowest risk of breast cancer.

Carotenoids have also shown great promise in their ability to lower rates of heart disease. In one thirteen-year-long study, researchers found a strong correlation between lower carotenoid concentrations in the blood and a higher rate of heart disease. As has frequently been found, the correlation between increased carotenoid consumption and decreased risk of heart disease was higher when all carotenoids, not just beta-carotene, were considered.

Carotenoid consumption also decreases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

The two carotenoids that are present in pumpkin—beta- and alpha- carotene—are particularly potent phytonutrients.

Beta-carotene, which first came to our attention in the 1980’s, is one of the world’s most studied antioxidants. The word “carotenoid”—derived from “carrot”—comes from the yellow-orange colour of these nutrients, which at first were linked primarily with carrots. Carrots (and sweet potatoes) also contain rich amounts of beta-carotene. It’s abundant in fruits and vegetables, and we’ve long known that the beta-carotene in foods helps prevent many diseases, including lung cancer. It was the connection between beta-carotene and lung-cancer prevention that led to some fascinating studies. These groundbreaking studies on beta-carotene were among the first indicators that supplements weren’t the complete answer to preventing disease and, indeed, it’s this finding that’s at the heart of Superfoods: whole foods are part of the answer to disease prevention and health promotion.

Scientists reasoned that if the beta-carotene in foods helped to prevent lung cancer, it followed that a beta-carotene supplement would do the same. Unfortunately, and shockingly, two important studies showed that, to the contrary, smokers who took beta-carotene supplements showed an increase in lung cancer.

In 1996, a Finnish study on 29,000 male smokers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that those who smoked and took beta-carotene supplements were 18 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than those who had not taken supplements.

In the United States, the Carotene and Retinal Efficacy Trial (CARET) study, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was halted almost two years before expected completion because of the negative effects of the supplemental beta-carotene and vitamin A on smokers when compared with subjects taking a placebo.

When derived from whole foods like pumpkin, the carotenoids are major players in the fight against disease. Higher blood levels of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are associated with lower levels of certain chronic diseases. In laboratory studies, beta-carotene has been shown to have very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in laboratory studies and, since oxidized cholesterol is the type that builds up in blood vessel walls and contributes to the risk of heart attack and stroke, getting extra beta-carotene in the diet may help to prevent the progression of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Beta-carotene along with other carotenoids may also prove to be helpful in preventing the free radical-caused complications of long-term diabetes and the increased risk for cardiovascular disease associated with this common illness.

Studies have also shown that a good intake of beta-carotene can help to’ reduce the risk of colon cancer, possibly by protecting colon cells from the damaging effects of cancer-causing chemicals.

While beta-carotene has long been linked with health promotion, it’s the bounty of alpha-carotene in pumpkin that makes it a real nutritional hero. The exciting news about alpha-carotene is that its presence in the body along with other key nutrients is reportedly inversely related to biological aging. In other words, the more alpha-carotene you eat, the slower your body shows signs of aging. Not only might alpha-carotene slow down the aging process, it also has been shown to protect against various cancers and cataracts. Moreover, the combination of carotenoids, potassium, magnesium, and folate found in pumpkin offers protection against cardiovascular disease.

Pumpkin is also a terrific source of fibre. Most people aren’t aware of the fibre content of canned pumpkin because it seems so creamy. Just one full-cup serving provides 5 grams of fibre—more than you’re getting from most supermarket cereals.

Thank you for reading the blog message of the day! Be sure to consider grabbing a form of pumpkin, either the entire pumpkin or its seeds. Pumpkin does a body good!