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3 ways pumpkin keeps you healthy

Thanksgiving was once postponed in Connecticut during Colonial times because the molasses needed to make pumpkin pies wasn’t available. Pumpkin pie is still an important part of the holiday celebration, but if you only eat pumpkin at Thanksgiving, you’re missing out on the many health benefits of this colorful fruit.

Pumpkin contains loads of beta carotene and alpha carotene, which are converted to vitamin A in your body. It’s high in fiber, low in calories, and a good source of several important minerals, including iron, potassium, and magnesium.

 

* PROTECTS PROSTATE - Munch a handful of pumpkin seeds every day, as men in the Ukraine do, and you may be able to sidestep prostate problems.

Scientists say the seeds may work because they contain zinc and chemicals called cucurbitaceous, which interfere with the production of DHT, a hormone responsible for prostate growth.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a nonmalignant enlargement of the prostate gland, is so common that 90 percent of men who reach age 85 will have at least a mild case of BPH.

In one recent study, researchers found that a combination of pumpkin seed extracts and saw palmetto, another herbal remedy for prostate problems, improved BPH symptoms significantly.

* EASES ARTHRITIS- If your joints ache, try adding a little pumpkin seed oil to your diet. The essential fatty acids in pumpkin seed oil, linoleum acid (omega-6) and linolenic acid (omega-3), may help fight arthritis. One study on arthritic rats found that supplements of pumpkin seed oil reduced signs of arthritis. The rats given pumpkin seed oil also had 44 percent less swelling in their paws. While no recent studies have been done on the effect of pumpkin seed oil on arthritis in humans, it may be a natural, easy way to get a little relief. You can buy pumpkin seed oil for cooking or in supplement form.

* HELPS YOUR HEART - Pumpkin may help protect your heart because of its high beta carotene content. One study of almost 5,000 elderly people in the Netherlands found that the people who ate the most foods rich in beta carotene were 45 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who ate the least amount. If you are thinking of taking beta carotene supplements, better think again. Researchers say supplements may not have the same effects.

Two separate animal studies recently showed that pumpkin seed oil may improve the effectiveness of medications used to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Pies are just one way to use pumpkin. It’s also delicious in chilled or hot soups, or in place of mashed potatoes in a shepherd’s pie. Or try sautéing or stir-frying strips of fresh pumpkin.

** Try adding one-fourth (¼) to one-half (½) cup pumpkin pulp to two cups of mashed potatoes.

** Add two tablespoons pumpkin per serving to hot oatmeal or cream of wheat. Then serve with honey.

** Thicken soups, sauces, beans, and chili with mashed pumpkin. Add ¼ to ½ cup pumpkin to about 2 cups of spaghetti sauce, baked beans, or chili.

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