Functional Foods: Oh My Gourd, Here’s Pumpkin to Talk About


By Christine “Cricket” Giles, M.S., B.S., Certified Nutrition Consultant & Certified Health Coach


Did you know that pumpkins are technically a fruit? We usually don’t think of them in this capacity, however, they are immature as a fruit and then cooked as a vegetable! Who knew pumpkins were more interesting than just a symbol of fall? Consequently, they are best eaten during the fall months, but can be stored for a month or longer if stored in cool, dry conditions. Pumpkins can really be enjoyed all year long and all parts of the pumpkin are beneficial.


Nutrient Content of Pumpkin:

Pumpkins are orange in color (duh!) meaning nutritionally they contain many benefits.  In addition to their color being beneficial, all of their parts are beneficial too: the actual fruit, seeds (which are also used to make pumpkin oil), and leaves.  They contain vitamins and antioxidants that protect the eyes, heart and strengthen the immune system.  According to a collaborative study found in the Nutrition Research Reviews (2010), pumpkin contains several phyto-constituents belonging to the categories of alkaloids, flavonoids, and palmitic, oleic and linoleic acids. The pertinent medicinal properties include anti-diabetic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, hepato-protective, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic. For specific benefits of the nutrient content of pumpkins, see below:  


Food For Thought 

According to the CDC, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes.  That equates to 1 in 10 people. In addition, 88 million American adults have pre-diabetes and that equates to 1 in 3 adults.  As these numbers continue to rise, it is important that we take action for our own health and the health of our families.  So how does this relate to pumpkin consumption?  Pumpkin is thought to be "anti-diabetic" meaning it's potentially helpful when it comes to stabilizing blood sugar regulation! According to a study in the Nutrition Research Reviews, pumpkin has a blood sugar lowering effect similar to certain pharmaceuticals.  It is thought to be due to the increased pancreatic insulin secretion from the existing b-cells. It is important to note that this research was done on lab animals and more testing needs to be conducted.  However, it is promising for the future!  Pumpkin has many benefits and could be a preventative food to consume for more than just people who are considered diabetic and prediabetic.  As mentioned above, pumpkin can be enjoyed all year round, but why not start now when they are the perfect staple to any fall meal!  See the recipe below for some inspiration!


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2- 1/4C pumpkin puree

  • 3/4C-1C (or more depending on thickness) plant milk of your choice

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 banana frozen (if not frozen add 1C ice)

  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Biotics Research vanilla) 

  • 1 handful leafy greens 

  • 1tsp pumpkin pie spice 

  • 1tsp of cinnamon 

Directions:

  • Blend all ingredients in a blender & enjoy!

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