The power of the pumpkin – not just for decoration

By: Oct 31, 2011

Most commonly used as festive decor, the pumpkin can aid alot more than you may think.

Fall is in the air. Everything about this season invites you to enjoy life. The bright and bold hues found only in nature blend together with the crispness in the air. Everywhere you walk, the sound of crunching leaves cradle your feet. No matter where you live, whether you get to take pleasure in the leaves changing colors or just in the fact that it is no longer uncomfortably hot outside, when you smell the spicy scent of fall you know it is the beginning of a wonderful season. The quintessential decoration of fall is everywhere and you cannot wait to purchase your own. When most of us envision the pumpkin, we see images of jack-o-lanterns and pies adorning Thanksgiving tables. But did you know that there’s far more to the pumpkin than carving it and an alternate to peach cobbler?

The Scent of the Pumpkin
Scent is linked to many aspects of both mental and emotional health and the scent of pumpkin is no exception. For many, the scent of pumpkin immediately brings to mind the warmth of family dinners and the joy of fall. These pleasurable memories release endorphins, which can reduce depression and in general, make you feel more alive. Additionally, the scent of pumpkin has been linked to the increase of the male libido.

The Meat of the Pumpkin
One of the most unused portions of the pumpkin is the meaty center. When carved, it is often thrown away; when sliced many people may not even know what to do with it. The orange color is derived from the high amount of carotenoids, in this case beta-carotene, which increase the amount of antioxidants in the body and can potentially decrease the risk of cancer. Eating pumpkin meat can also aid with digestion. Pumpkins are also high in Vitamins A and C.

The Seeds of the Pumpkin
Although you may know that toasting pumpkin seeds can be a wonderful treat on a cool fall day, you may not know these seeds are just as beneficial to your health as its smell and the meat of the pumpkin. These tiny treats pack a tremendous health punch. They are a natural source of protein, amino acid, and Vitamins B, C, D, E, and K. The nutty flavor adds great taste to many recipes but they provide the most benefit when you eat them raw. If you are not able to eat them all when you first cut into the pumpkin, be sure and keep the remainder of them in the refrigerator or you could lose all your health benefits to food poisoning!

The Oil of the Pumpkin
Because of the benefit the overall pumpkin provides, researches began trying to find ways to extract oil from the pumpkin seeds. This oil has been linked to aiding prostate and incontinence problems. Additionally, it helps to reduce sleep difficulties as well as eyesight troubles. You can take pumpkin seed oil in the form of a supplement or buy it in culinary oil form. If you plan to use it as oil, be sure your ingredients are not mixed with too much sunflower oil. This trick, used by many manufacturers, meant to extend the amount of the expensive pumpkin oil, actually dilutes its benefits.

Suggestions to Prepare Your Pumpkin
Now that you know the power of the pumpkin as a whole, you will want to know some of the most flavorful ways to add it to your diet. As mentioned above, pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw. For an additional treat, spread them on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. Coating them first with olive oil will add not only moisture but also extra flavor. For pumpkin seeds with added pizzazz, sprinkle your favorite spice or seasoning on both top and bottom.

Pumpkin meat can easily be made into a purée that can be eaten as is or added into a number of recipes. To do this, cut a pumpkin in half and de-seed it. Place each half face down in a shallow roasting pan with 1 or 2 cups of water. Bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour and a half. At this point, the meat of the pumpkin will be tender enough to scoop out and purée, perhaps as a base for soup or a healthy alternative to store bought, high fructose corn syrup laden pudding. Finally, one of the easiest ways to enjoy pumpkin is to cut it into cubes, place in a bowl, and eat. You can add a small amount of brown sugar and whipped cream or serve it warm with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Take some time this fall to not only appreciate the artful beauty of the pumpkin but also get acquainted with the fruit you thought you knew your whole life. With so many uses and healthful benefits, you may never look at your jack-o-lantern the same again.