Words On Wellness • October's Icon
The first letter of ‘October’ suggests the very roundness of that plump, ribbed, vining fruit we honor every autumn – the beloved pumpkin. The classic orange Cucurbita pepo was domesticated from wild gourds nearly 10,000 years ago, by indigenous tribes in Mexico. They may have cultivated only the seeds and used the hard shells, but these first domesticated fruits contained the distinctive orange pigmentation of true pumpkins. Now every year in the USA, more bright orange pumpkins are sold for Jack O’ Lanterns than any other seasonal produce. A beige-colored, oblong, and flavorful variety is the pumpkin that gets canned and shipped to supermarkets for pie-making and other pumpkin-related cooking.
Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that are experiencing digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea or hairballs. The high fiber content helps with this, but pumpkin is also rich in beta carotene that converts to vitamin A in the body. Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during winter to help maintain egg production.
People can be eating more of this delicious squash and its varietals too, since it also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are thought to help prevent cataracts and may slow the development of macular degeneration. Besides, the pulp combined with brown sugar and a touch of plain yogurt makes a great face mask that exfoliates and soothes.
Much of pumpkin’s power is in the seeds, which were used by Native Americans to treat intestinal worms and urinary ailments – a remedy adopted by American doctors in the early nineteenth century. In Germany and southeastern Europe, extracts of the seeds are still used in treating over-active or irritated bladders and benign prostatic hyperplasia. In China, a combination of ground pumpkin seed and betel nut is effective for expelling tapeworms (Taenia spp) in most cases.
Snacking on the seeds gives you a good source of protein, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, tryptophan, folate and fiber. The seed oil is high in Omega 3 and 9 fatty acids, vitamin E, antioxidants and antifungal agents. Diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer. So, enjoy carving these globes of October, but don’t forget to eat them for months to come.