With cooler temperatures and changing leaves, fall is in full swing! Despite the many temptations, you can enjoy this festive season without becoming an imbalanced sugar zombie.
One of the most characteristic symbols of the season is the pumpkin. This festive orb is transformed into everything from frightening Jack O’Lanterns to pumpkin pie. Not only are they beautiful and delicious, but pumpkins also provide powerful nutritional benefits that help to balance the health issues of the season.
Pumpkins are a fruit from the species Crucurbita pepo or Curcurbia mixta from the same family as cucumbers, squash and other vine-dwellers that have seeds. Pumpkins are delicious and versatile seasonal treats. The creamy orange flesh of a pumpkin is sweet and earthy in flavor and can be prepared in a variety of sweet and savory ways.
Pumpkin is rich in anti-oxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E as well as supplying a good dose of fiber. Vitamin A in pumpkins supports healthy skin and immune health, while fiber helps to balance blood glucose levels. Pumpkin also contains minerals such as magnesium and potassium which help to balance blood pressure and relax muscles to protect the circulatory system. Although low in fat, pumpkins do contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid.
These anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of pumpkin make it useful in supporting many areas of health. For example, compounds in pumpkins have been investigated for cancer prevention and treatment. Pumpkins have also been shown to improve blood sugar balance and insulin regulation. Further, the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in pumpkin seem to support healthy cardiovascular and heart health.
According to Ayurveda, ripe pumpkins can reduce Pitta energy and also help balance Vata. Although pumpkin is somewhat cooling, this quality is reduced when it is cooked especially with ghee. Unripe pumpkins should be avoided as they can aggravate all three doshas and are hard to digest.
Pumpkins are detoxifying and thought to help clean the bladder and surrounding organs. Traditionally, pumpkins are believed to sharpen the intellect and induce calm. Therefore, they are used for a variety of mental imbalances and to reduce stress and agitation.
Pumpkins are also great for helping to balance out the metal element of the fall season and prevent illnesses. Weaknesses in the lungs and large intestine often arise during the fall as allergies, asthma and constipation. Pumpkins are sweet and grounding, corresponding to the earth element and can therefore relieve dampness and support digestive, respiratory and overall health.
Simply rinse, dry and roast pumpkin seeds with your favorite seasonings. Try spices like cumin, turmeric or cinnamon for a healthy snack. Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrition including protein, minerals, B vitamins and amino acids like tryptophan. These nutrients have been shown to support bladder function and urinary flow by inhibiting excess dihydro epi-androstenedione (DHEA) levels. Due to their high tryptophan content, pumpkin seeds may help alleviate anxiety and improve sleep. They also help balance cholesterol levels and strengthen bones. Additionally, the antioxidants and essential fatty acids in pumpkin seeds have been shown to help relieve inflammation, especially in the joints.
Pumpkins and other winter squashes should be organically-grown when possible, as conventionally grown plants can concentrate polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from contaminated soils. Choose organic pumpkins and other produce to avoid bogging down your system with toxins and contaminants.
Counter fall’s coolness and airy wind with grounded, sweet, orange pumpkins! Try warm, soothing cooked pumpkin dishes like soups, stews and casseroles made with fresh, organic ingredients. Experiment with this healthy squash this fall and find your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin!
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