Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice
By Madalina Hubert
It wouldn’t be fall in North America without pumpkins. At this time of year, they seem to be everywhere, bringing an air of joy, thanksgiving, and celebration. We enjoy them as pies, drinks, soups, and stews, not to mention as decoration. Yet how often do we stop to think about their health benefits?
Indeed, pumpkins have many nutritional and health properties – perhaps more than we realize. The pumpkin flesh (pulp) that we use most often in cooking has many benefits, and it seems that the pumpkin seeds are even more potent. So when you’re making that tasty pumpkin pie, don’t forget to keep some of those pumpkin seeds. They’re not only delicious as snacks or in salads but are also quite healthy.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, pumpkins have a sweet nature with warming qualities. They work on the digestive system, including the spleen, stomach and pancreas, but have positive impacts on other parts of the body as well. Pumpkins also contain valuable properties, such as fibre, vitamins, iron, potassium and beta-carotene, all of which benefit the body.
Traditional Chinese medicine, however, believes pumpkin seeds offer even more health benefits than the pumpkin flesh. Here are some of the most significant ones.
Expel parasites – Pumpkin seeds are used (often in combination with other herbs) to treat intestinal parasites such as roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms. Europeans and Native Americans also use them in similar ways.
Improve digestion – Due to their warming nature, pumpkin seeds can stimulate digestion. However, people with stomach heat should be careful and limit their intake, according to the Chinese Herb Healing website.
Helps the reproductive system – Traditional Chinese medicine uses pumpkin seeds to protect the prostate in men. The seeds also help pregnant women with reducing hand and foot swelling, and to improve lactation in new mothers.
Other benefits of pumpkin seeds may include relief of hemorrhoids, joint pain, and treating diarrhea (even for pets).
Like with any other food, it is best to eat pumpkin seeds in moderation or they could harm the body. People with different body constitutions may also have different reactions, so be careful and observe your body’s responses when including them in your diet. This article is only for general information. If using pumpkin-seeds to treat a particular ailment, it is best to consult a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.
Although pumpkin seeds are usually best enjoyed roasted, as a snack or in salads, consuming them raw is the most effective because they retain more of their nutritional properties. Another alternative is to boil them or steep them with hot water as a tea.
As for the pumpkin flesh we usually use to make pumpkin pies or other delicious treats, it also contains important nutrients. The flesh has a lot of fibre, which helps with digestion. It also includes beta-carotene, an antioxidant that nourishes the skin and eyes. So we can certainly enjoy that pumpkin pie without too much guilt. Of course, the less sugar, the better! That’s all for pumpkin health benefits!
Madalina Hubert is a Toronto-based writer specializing in art, culture, travel, and culinary explorations.