It is that time of year again. The leaves are beginning to turn color, a fresh autumn smell is in the air, and everyone is on the lookout for the best pumpkin to display. Pumpkins in most households symbolize Fall has arrived. Next time you go the pumpkin patch or your local market, I encourage you to look at all the varieties of pumpkins there are to purchase. While the Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are best for carving there are other types of pumpkins that can create wonders in the kitchen, such as Cinderella, Lumina, Marina Di Chioggia,Snack Jack, or Queensland Blue.
Pumpkins contain a high amount of carotenoids such as beta carotene, which may play a role in preventing heart disease, cancer, and age related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. As opposed to supplements, beta carotene from food sources such as pumpkin are considered safe. Studies have shown that beta-carotene supplements may increase risk for lung cancer in smokers and most researchers feel beta-carotene supplements offer no protection against cancer. However, beta-carotene from food sources such as pumpkin are highly encouraged due to its antioxidant properties.
In addition, pumpkin has been used in traditional medicines such as Mexico and China to help manage diabetes. Pumpkins may be considered a functional food, in that it offers more benefits than just its nutrients. According to Food Research International pumpkins may help decrease blood sugar levels in those with diabetes. Beneficial properties were found both in the seeds and the pulp of the pumpkin. Pumpkins contain pectin and polysaccharides which may help lower the blood sugar. More research needs to be done to further understand the mechanism and the effects of pumpkin and diabetes. In the mean time, eating pumpkins as part of your diet is considered safe and may have some beneficial bonuses.
Most of us think of pumpkin pie when we cook with pumpkin, but there are many other ways to eat pumpkin. Pumpkin soup is one of my favorites, especially with whole wheat bread on the side. Another tasty idea is to cut the pumpkin into sections, drizzle some olive oil on it and roast it in the oven for about 45 minutes. I have also diced the pumpkin, boiled it and put into a risotto rice before. Any recipe that calls for butternut squash is one that can be replaced with pumpkin. Here are some websites for pumpkin recipe ideas.
Good luck with pumpkin hunting.
Adams, G., Imran, S., Mohammad, A., Kok, S., Gray, D., Channell, G., Morris, G., Harding, S. (2011). “Review: The hypoglycaemic effect of pumpkins as anti-diabetic and functional medicines.” Food Research International. 44(4):862-867. Retrieved October 8, 2012.