In my last post I talked about Halloween and the old tradition of carving the turnip, together with its health benefits.

As we saw, when the Irish moved to the US, pumpkin was more available than turnip and it became the preferred choice for carving the Jack o’ Lantern.   Gradually this tradition moved back to Ireland and we now have supermarkets crammed with cases of pumpkins in the run up to Halloween.

So what about pumpkins?  We saw that turnip was a good Winter vegetable does the same apply to pumpkin?

The answer is yes.  Pumpkins belong in the Cucurbita family and are classified as a Squash.  Similar to turnips they are a warming food.  Unlike turnips however, they have a slight diuretic effect and are often included in weight loss diets for this reason.

The bright orange colour of all the squashes shows their high betacarotene content.  Pumpkin therefore is very high in Vitamin A and due to the betacarotene is good for eyesight and general immunity.

Pumpkins contain a constituent called cucurbitacin.  Curcurbitacin has been shown to have anti-tumour and apoptotic effects (initiating cell death, commonly overridden by pro-cancer mechanisms)[1][2].  It is true these studies are still at lab stage and not human trials, but still a good reason to incorporate pumpkin in your diet!

Pumpkin is a very versatile food.  You can use the flesh in soups, stews and stir-fries, but also in desserts – think of the American Pumpkin Pie!.  The seeds also have great health benefits – they have been shown to benefit blood lipid levels[3] as well as having anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties[4].

So don’t just use your pumpkin as a lantern this Halloween.  Once the pumpkin is hollowed out take the flesh and make a soup, a dessert or even bread.  Use the seeds, dry them or even roast them and sprinkle them on cereals.  This is a food that gives its all, in terms of fun and nutrition – so get the most out of it and enjoy it on all levels.

[1] Wang et al, Anti-tumor and apoptotic effects of cucurbitacin A in A-549 lung carcinoma cells is mediated via G2/M cell cycle arrest and M-TOR/P13K/AKT signalling pathway, Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2017; 14(2): 75–82. Published online 2017 Jan 13. doi:  [10.21010/ajtcam.v14i2.9]

[2] Henrich et al, Effects of cucurbitacins on cell morphology are associated with sensitization of renal carcinoma cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, Apoptosis. 2012 Jan; 17(1): 79–89. doi:  [10.1007/s10495-011-0652-7]

[3] Abuelgassim et al, The Effect of Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo L) Seeds and L-Arginine Supplementation on Serum Lipid Concentrations in Atherogenic Rats

[4] Yadav et al, Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review, Nutrition Research Reviews, Volume 23, Issue 2 December 2010, pp. 184-190

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