All Things Pumpkin, Especially The SEEDS!

 

This is the perfect time of year for a post about all the great benefits of eating pumpkins, as well as their seeds. So nice that something so tasty is also so nutritious!

 

Pumpkin

With fall in the air, at least here in the eastern US, and Halloween just around the corner, pumpkins are turning up everywhere, so it seems like the perfect time to spotlight this low-calorie, super-nutritious vegetable. Pumpkins provide a variety of nutrients, including important minerals such as calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth, and iron, which is important for blood cell function and many biochemical reactions in your cells. Pumpkins also contain magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium, along with vitamins C and E and two B-complex vitamins, folate and niacin.

And their bright orange color is a sign that pumpkins are rich in carotenoids, which the body converts into vitamin A. Carotenoids are antioxidants and protect the body from free radicals and the by-products of metabolism and toxin breakdown. So a diet high in pumpkin may help prevent cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and some eye problems. And interestingly enough, canned pumpkin is actually more nutritious than fresh pumpkin because it has been cooked down and the water removed, so it’s nutrients are more concentrated than in fresh, plus they are easier for the body to absorb. Here’s a short video about how canned pumpkin is the top food when it comes to carotenoids:

http://videos.huffingtonpost.com/entertainment/the-health-benefits-of-canned-pumpkin-516925343

Pumpkins also provides a healthy dose of fiber. A 1-cup serving of canned pumpkin contains up to 5 grams of dietary fiber, which helps food move through the digestive tract, lessening the risk of constipation and intestinal inflammation conditions such as diverticulitis. Fiber also helps reduce your blood cholesterol level and slows glucose uptake after a meal, reducing the demand on your body to produce insulin, which can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

More about the benefits of pumpkin and a recipe for pumpkin hair conditioner:

http://www.hungryforchange.tv/article/4-beauty-benefits-of-pumpkin-plus-diy-pumpkin-conditioner-recipe

Seven benefits to eating pumpkin, including healing the pancreas and helping stabilize insulin levels, as well as treating inflammation and reducing your risk of arthritis:

http://www.bewellbuzz.com/nutrition/7-health-reasons-eat-pumpkin-pumpkin-seeds/

And if you still have any doubt about how good pumpkin is, just watch this adorable porcupine chowing down on a mini pumpkin:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1391338621104147&set=vb.136336876521150&type=2&theater

So pumpkins are clearly a great all-natural health food, but the seeds they produce are real powerhouses in and of themselves….

 

pumpk sq-y

Pumpkin Seed Benefits

If you’re in the mood for a chewy snack that doubles as a phenomenal health food, look no further than pumpkin seeds. With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package. They also contain plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants, which can give your health an added boost.

Best of all, because pumpkin seeds are highly portable and require no refrigeration, they make an excellent snack whenever you’re on the go, or they can be used as a quick anytime snack at home, too.

9 Top Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds by Dr. Mercola

1.  Heart Healthy Magnesium

One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains nearly half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which participates in a wide range of vitally important physiological functions, including the creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), the synthesis of RNA and DNA, the pumping of your heart, proper bone and tooth formation, relaxation of your blood vessels, and proper bowel function.

Magnesium has been shown to benefit your blood pressure and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke, yet an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in this important mineral.

2.  Zinc for Immune Support

Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc (one ounce contains more than 2 mg of this beneficial mineral). Zinc is important to your body in many ways, including immunity, cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function.

Many are deficient in zinc due to mineral-depleted soils, drug effects, plant-based diets, and other diets high in grain. This deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, acne, low birth weight babies, learning problems and poor school performance in children.

3.  Plant-Based Omega-3 Fats

Raw nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are one of the best sources of plant-based omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). We all need ALA, however, ALA has to be converted by your body into the far more essential omega-3 fats EPA and DHA — by an enzyme in which the vast majority of us have impaired by high insulin levels. So, while pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of ALA, I believe it is essential to get some of your omega-3 fats from animal sources, such as krill oil, as well.

4.  Prostate Health

Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men’s health. This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health (where it is found in the highest concentrations in the body), and also because pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate). Research suggests that both pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health.

5.  Anti-Diabetic Effects

Animal studies suggest that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.

6.  Benefits for Post-menopausal Women

Pumpkin seed oil is rich in natural phytoestrogens and studies suggest it may lead to a significant increase in good “HDL” cholesterol, along with decreases in blood pressure, hot flashes, headaches, joint pains and other menopausal symptoms in post-menopausal women.

7.  Heart and Liver Health

Pumpkin seeds, rich in healthy fats, antioxidants and fibers, may provide benefits for heart and liver health, particularly when mixed with flax seeds.

8.  Tryptophan for Restful Sleep

Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, an amino acid (protein building block) that your body converts into serotonin, which in turn is converted into melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” Eating pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed, along with a carbohydrate like a small piece of fruit, may be especially beneficial for providing your body the tryptophan needed for your melatonin and serotonin production to help promote a restful night’s sleep.

9.  Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Pumpkin seed oil has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. One animal study even found it worked as well as the anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in treating arthritis, but without the side effects.

What’s the Best Way to Consume Pumpkin Seeds?

In order to preserve the healthy fats present in the seeds, pumpkin seeds should be eaten raw. If you choose to purchase seeds from a bulk bin, make sure they smell fresh – not musty, spoiled or stale, which could indicate rancidity or the presence of fungal mycotoxins. Organic pumpkin seeds are preferred, as they will not be contaminated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

However, most nuts and seeds have anti-nutrients like *phytic acid that can make all the previously discussed important nutrients less bioavailable when you consume them. So if you plan on consuming seeds or nuts on a regular basis, it would be wise to soak or sprout them. To make them more palatable, you can then dehydrate them in your oven, or better yet and more cost effectively in a dehydrator. There are many dehydrators on the market, but Excalibur is generally considered the best. I have used one for over 20 years. They are readily available on Amazon.

If you prefer to eat the seeds roasted, do so yourself so you can control the roasting temperature and time. Raw pumpkin seeds can be roasted on a low heat setting in your oven (no more than 170 degrees F or 75 degrees Celsius), sprinkled with Himalayan or other natural salt, for about 15-20 minutes.

*More on phytic acid at the end of this post. Also see this Self-help Health post.

And that’s not all pumpkin seeds are good for. Check out this article about the ability of pumpkin seeds to wage war on intestinal parasites….

(from NaturalHealth365 by Jonathan Landsman) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of the world’s population is infected with parasites. They can enter the body through food or water, mosquitoes, intimate contact and through the nose or mouth after touching an animal or any contaminated surface. The question is – how do we get rid of them.

Parasites find friendly environments and automatically settle in for the long haul. When our immunity is low and our digestive system is not in good working order they can take refuge in our body. But dietary changes can help improve this health problem.

These tiny critters are often difficult to get rid of, and also hard to diagnose. The symptoms of parasitic infestation are very general and may not be that different from other conditions. The intestinal symptoms are bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, allergies and poor immunity.

Pumpkin seeds are known for their nutritional content along with their ability to get rid of intestinal parasites. Roasted pumpkin seeds are not only a great snack, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends consuming pumpkin seeds, along with plenty of fluids to help both protect against and get rid of any parasites you may have. The seed doesn’t kill the worms but paralyzes them, which in turn prevents them from holding on to the wall of the intestine as they commonly do during a bowel movement.

Since pumpkin seeds are easy to eat with or without the shells, and make a delicious topping for salads, a garnish for casseroles, and can be used in breakfast cereals, it is easy to incorporate them in your meals or as a snack.

Want to know even more about the uses and benefits of pumpkin seeds? Here’s a good resource that has a number of articles about health issues pumpkin seeds can help with, including hair loss, acne, and prostate problems, plus there’s a tasty-sounding recipe for pumpkin seed pesto:

http://superfoodprofiles.com/category/nuts-seeds/pumpkin-seeds/

And in the article by Dr. Mercola it mentioned that pumpkin seeds, like grains, nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid that can cause a number of health problems and render nutrients less bio-available. That’s why whenever you eat any of these types of foods you should really soak and/or sprout them first to help lower phytic acid.

A great way to get around the phytic acid issue with pumpkin seeds is to buy Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds. That way the work is already done for you and they are the best tasting seeds I’ve ever had. The only problem is you may have a hard time stopping with just a handful! They aren’t cheap, but they are nutrient dense, so a little goes a long way. If you shop at Vitacost, you can get them at a discount price. 

And even though the seeds are better for you raw, they are awfully tasty toasted, especially if they are being used as a garnish on soups or salads. Check out this link for some “how to” tips on toasting. The only thing I wouldn’t do is use a microwave (as mentioned in the directions) to heat the water for soaking the seeds. Microwaves create “dead” water and a number of other changes in whatever is heated in them. My suggestion? Use structured water that’s been heated on the stove to give the seeds an extra infusion of vital energy during the soaking process.

http://www.flouronmyface.com/2012/10/how-to-clean-and-roast-pumpkin-seeds.html

And stay tuned for some recipes that will give you tasty ways to incorporate more pumpkin into your diet!

2/11/14 Update: Check out this post for an Abundance Bowl recipe that has a yummy pumpkin seed sauce you could use on lots of different foods:

https://selfhelphealth.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/winter-detox-foods/

 

Salud!

p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page and Evolution Made Easier blog for more helpful health tips, tools and information.

Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.

Vitamin D: The Dynamite Vitamin That’s Not Really A Vitamin!

About 6 or 7 years ago I started doing some research on Vitamin D because it suddenly seemed to be coming up in almost every thing I was reading health-wise. It was starting to sound like a miracle nutrient, and it turns out it wasn’t a “flash in the pan” kind of thing. Even now I continue to find more and more things this one time lowly little vitamin that’s not technically a vitamin (it’s a pro-hormone) can do. It’s great knowing that something so simple and inexpensive (even free, when you get a dose from sunshine!) can help make us healthier in so many ways. I say “Bring on the D and plenty of it!”

Vitamin D Illustration

(Photo from WebMD.com)

Vitamin D:

In the last few years it seems that suddenly Vitamin D is the “go to” nutrient for almost anything that ails you. I remember when you really didn’t hear much about D, which gave me the impression it must not be that important to our health. Now they’re finding that it is not only necessary for bone health, but also can help protect against colds and flu (including swine and N1H1 flu!), a number of cancers, and more. In one blockbuster study after another, vitamin D is being revealed as one of nature’s wonder nutrients.

And what’s interesting is that as they are discovering how big of a player vitamin D really is, they are also finding out that most people are deficient in this “sunshine vitamin.” Even 83% of the people living in Saudi Arabia, one of the sunniest climates around, were found to have low levels of D. The Mayo Clinic recently found that 100% of the African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans they tested had low levels. And in another Mayo Clinic study that was based in Minnesota it was found that overall 93% of 150 schoolchildren and adults were deficient in D, so it’s an issue affecting an extremely large portion of the population. This is a serious health problem because chronic deficiency has now been shown to play a role in 11 types of cancer, as well as in inflammatory conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s Disease. Low levels of D also play a part in heart disease, pain issues, diminishing cognitive function, and weak, brittle bones.

The body uses D for normal immune system function, to control cellular growth, and to absorb calcium from the digestive tract. It also helps fight inflammation, which is basically the body’s reaction to stress or dis-ease. Long term inflammations can not only lead to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but also inflammatory bowel disease, chronic muscle pain, heart disease, depression, dementia and a wide range of cancers, including skin melanomas. So having adequate levels of D for fighting inflammation is extremely important.

D3 (cholecalciferol), one of the forms of the vitamin, can inhibit the growth of malignant melanoma, breast cancer, leukemia, and mammary tumors in laboratory animals. D3 also inhibits angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels that permit the spread of cancer cells through the body. In animals fed a high fat diet, which normally would produce a higher incidence of colon cancer, supplements of calcium and vitamin D blocked this carcinogenic effect of the diet.

And they are finding that as far as bone density is concerned, getting adequate D is more important than calcium. Dr. Nan Fuchs wrote about this in her newsletter where she said:

“The results of a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research may surprise you. It looked at around 10,000 people of all ages and found that getting enough vitamin D was more important than getting high amounts of calcium. In fact, it concluded that women don’t need more than 566 mg of dietary calcium a day (and 626 mg for men).

That’s right. Dietary calcium. This study found no reason to take high amounts of calcium in supplements. In fact, the researchers suggested that taking more calcium may be important only for women with vitamin D levels less than 50 nmol/L! And this you can get from your diet.

What did they consider to be enough vitamin D? Not 30 nmol/L, as many say. Not even 50 nmol/L. You need at least 75 nmol/L. The most common result I’ve seen in patients is around 30 nmol/L. That’s way too low to protect your bones, your heart, and your immune system.” 

Here are just a few of the quotes featured on the Vitamin D Council site:

“Because vitamin D is so cheap and so clearly reduces all-cause mortality, I can say this with great certainty: Vitamin D represents the single most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States.”~ Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, Medical Director, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

“I believe [vitamin D] is the number one public health advance in medicine in the last twenty years.” ~ Dr. John Whitcomb, Aurora Sinai Medical Center.

“This is like the Holy Grail of cancer medicine; vitamin D produced a drop in cancer rates greater than that for quitting smoking, or indeed any other countermeasure in existence.” ~ Dennis Mangan, clinical laboratory scientist.

“No other method to prevent cancer has been identified that has such a powerful impact.” ~ Dr. Cedric Garland, Vitamin D expert.

“Vitamin D is, without question, the miracle nutrient of the century. “ ~ Mike Adams, natural health researcher and author.

“I would challenge anyone to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D. The data are really quite remarkable.” ~ Dr. Edward Giovannucci, Vitamin D expert.

“In all my many years of practice of medicine, I’ve never seen one vitamin, even vitamin C, have such profound effects on human health.” ~ Dr. Soram Khalsa, board-certified internist and medical director for the East-West Medical Research Institute.

And if all that praise doesn’t convince you to up your D intake, here’s some research data that might:

  • “We estimate that vitamin D deficiency is the most common medical condition in the world.” ~ Dr. Michael F. Holick, Vitamin D expert
  • There is an association between lower levels of D and risk of anemia, breast cancer, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and intellectual disabilities in the elderly
  • Supposedly raising our D levels to above 60ng/ml (in the past 25ng/ml was considered healthy) could make a 67% dent in breast cancer
  •  Influenza epidemics are inversely correlated with vitamin D deficiency
  • D levels are lower in obese people (D suppresses leptins, which are correlated with obesity)
  • Higher doses of D have been linked to a reduction in falls and fractures
  • A person’s level of vitamin D may actually be a predictor of his or her ability to lose fat, especially in the abdominal area
  • D may be of benefit to patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and patients with chronic kidney disease
  • Vitamin D and probiotics may help offer protection for asthma and allergy sufferers; D may even help cure asthma
  • Complications of pregnancy, such as preterm labor/birth and infection, were lowest in women taking 4000 IU a day (only 400 IU has been the RDA for years); women taking only 400 IU/day had double the pregnancy complication of the 4000 IU/day group

That’s just a very short list of some of the findings now coming out, but enough to make it clear that everyone should be getting plenty of D. If you don’t spend time in the sun, or always wear sunscreen and are therefore having to rely on your diet for adequate amounts of this vitamin, you may be in for trouble. Food sources of D are rather limited—mainly cod liver oil, milk, eggs, fortified cereals (which often contain D2, which is not as bio-available to/absorbable by the body as D3), and certain varieties of mushrooms—so you may want to rely on a supplement to make sure you’re getting enough.

Vitamin D supplements have always been readily available, and there are even more now that it’s showing itself to be such a powerhouse. And in light of recent findings, many companies are putting out versions of D with much higher doses than before.  Up until a few years ago I didn’t take any vitamin D, other than what was in my calcium supplements, but after all the reading and research I’ve done, I decided to change that. I began taking around 4000 I.U. a day, and was a little concerned that that might be too much, even though that amount and more is now being recommended by a number of doctors.

But I had my blood level tested and was still way below the 50 to 100 therapeutic level that is becoming the new standard, if you want to really experience D’s protective qualities. So now I’m taking around 10,000 I.U. every few days, although everyone should be tested to know what dosage is right for them. I like using a liquid supplement because it’s easy to get a high dosage without swallowing a lot of pills. It’s almost taste-less, although this can vary, depending on the brand, and you can even add it to your salad dressing and get your dosage that way.

Just be sure when buying any D that you’re getting D3 (cholecalciferol), not D2, an inactive form of D that’s about 10 times less effective because it’s hard for the body to absorb and use. Also, since D is fat-soluble, always take it with some fat/oil containing food. And be sure you’re taking an adequate amount—many researchers, doctors, and healthcare practitioners are now saying that the RDA recommendation of 400 I.U. is way too low, and that we should be getting between 2000–5000 units a day (some set therapeutic dosage as high as 50,000 I.U. a week). The old fear of over-supplementing with D3 has largely been debunked by independent research. They’ve found that people have taken very high doses for as long as a year with no ill effects, so make sure you’re taking enough to have a preventative effect. However, as with anything, use good judgment and have your blood tested or have someone muscle test (use kinesiology) you when deciding how much you should take.

3/1/2021 UPDATE: For those of you looking for natural ways to prevent getting the covid virus, or lessening the symptoms, if you do, Vitamin D is increasingly being recognized and recommended, not only by the alternative health community, but now even mainstream medicine is jumping on board. Here’s a site that features a number of articles about using D against covid; just scroll down the left-hand side of the page:

https://www.vitamindsociety.org

Here are links to articles about Vitamin D and other health issues:

http://www.naturalnews.com/042097_vitamin_D_lung_cancer_cohort_study.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/01/vitamin-d-for-breast-cancer.aspx

This particular article talks about how low levels of Vitamin D2 are directly linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. It’s interesting in that this is the first time I have come across evidence of D2 being so important. I used to worry that the almond milk I drink contains D2 and not D3, but maybe that’s a good thing after all?!

http://www.naturalnews.com/042632_vitamin_D3_Alzheimers_prevention_prohormone.html

And if you would like a free 4-page report by Dr. Nicolas Hedberg about how to fortify your immune system against the flu and other “bugs” by using vitamin D and other natural substances, go to my To Your Health page and send in a request or leave a comment on this post.

Also, you can get D in a wide variety of doses and formats at discount prices at Vitacost.com, one of my favorite on-line places for natural health products. If you shop at Vitacost, sign up for a free account at Rakuten (formerly eBates.com) beforehand, if you don’t already have one. That way you can use the Rakuten portal to shop at Vitacost and earn cash back on your purchases. Plus, Rakuten also gives a gift card or some other “prize” when you place your first order (right now when you spend $20, you also get $20!). How does it get any better than that?!

 iHerb.com is another good discount place to shop (use code CJG192 if you are a new customer and spend more than $40 and you will get a discount and free shipping on $20 or more, plus you can take advantage of the good deals in their trial offers section.

Salud!

p.s. Be sure to subscribe to Self-help Health so you don’t miss any future posts, and tell your friends to do the same. Also check out my website’s To Your Health page.

Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.