Trick or Treat? The Health Benefits of Pumpkins
There is no trick about the health benefits of pumpkins. They are a seasonal treat that are a nutritional powerhouse - so make sure to grab a couple while they are available (or better still, grow your own!) - and freeze some to reap the benefits year round.
So what is so good about pumpkin? Well they certainly are a great source of fun as we all love to carve faces into them at this time of year and light them up with tea-lights, but what about what’s on the inside of these orange globes?
Pumpkins are actually a fruit and part of the Cucurbitaceous family, rich in dietary fibre and full of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. They have one of the highest levels of Vitamin A, which is required by the body for maintaining healthy skin and mucus levels and is vital for good vision and eye health. The bright orange colour of pumpkins indicates that they are an excellent source of poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as Beta-carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. When we eat the flesh of a pumpkin our bodies convert the beta-carotene into Vitamin A.
Lutein and Zea-xanthin are powerful anti-oxidants and are yellow to red in colour, which gives pumpkins their vibrant hue. They are found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye and help guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can destroy cells, cause inflammation and contribute to the rise of many diseases. The combination of these two anti-oxidants found in pumpkins can help to prevent macular degeneration, whilst lutein may also help protect against atherosclerosis, which is the build up of plaques in the arteries, and is a risk factor for heart attacks.
Pumpkins contain nearly 20% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for women, and are also a great source of the B complex vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
And it is not just vitamins that these orange orbs contain – they are also full of minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and copper. In fact, pumpkins have more potassium per cup than bananas – which makes them great for re-fueling after a hard workout and restoring the balance of electrolytes to aid muscle recovery.
And as if that wasn't enough... make sure you don’t throw away the seeds when you are carving out your pumpkin, as these also pack a mighty punch.
Our infographic demonstrates 7 ways in which pumpkin seeds can contribute to good health:
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, but for a delicious snack pop them in the oven while you are carving your work of art and roast on a low to medium heat for approximately 15-20 minutes (sea salt and pepper optional) and enjoy whilst admiring your glowing Jack’o’Lantern.
So onto the recipe…this soup is super easy to make, and also has the added benefits of ginger and turmeric, which provide anti-inflammatory benefits as well as a giving the soup a spicy kick. Turmeric is an extremely potent anti-inflammatory spice, and has been used for centuries in fighting infection, healing wounds, blood thinning, gut health and there is increasing evidence to show its effects in the treatment of cancer. Ginger has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti cancer properties and has been used for hundreds of years to reduce fevers and swellings from cuts and bruises. It is a circulation stimulant and can improve the production of digestive juices and the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract into the blood.
The soup can be made as per the instructions – which includes directions for making the chicken stock base -or it can be made suitable for vegetarians by substituting the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
Pumpkin, Turmeric & Ginger Soup
2 cups chicken stock made from:
1 chicken carcass
1 medium/large onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp mixed herbs
1 tsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
For the rest of the soup:
3 cups pumpkin
¾ cup full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or ½ tbsp ginger powder)
2 fresh turmeric roots, peeled and finely chopped (or 1tbsp turmeric powder)
Coriander (chopped) to garnish
For the chicken stock: (this can be pre-prepared and frozen in batches for later use):
Place chicken carcass in a slow cooker or large pan, add an onion cut into halves, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp mixed herbs, salt, pepper and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least 24 hours. Remove the chicken bones and use a stick blender to combine onions and garlic into the stock. (This can then be frozen in portion sizes for later use)
For the soup:
In a blender, combine chicken stock, pumpkin, turmeric, and coconut milk and process on high until smooth.
Add lemon juice and ginger.
Place mixture in a pot and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
Serve with a spoon of coconut milk on top and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
What are your favourite pumpkin recipes?