Nutrition - Pumpkins and cancer

Friday 04 May 2018

This week I was going to continue my theme of meal ideas but thought I would postpone this for a week and do a blog about pumpkins and a recipe.  

Pumpkins you might ask, what have they got to do with cancer? Interestingly enough, quite a lot!

  • First of all they are very seasonal and inexpensive at the moment and one recommendation that I always make is to try and buy vegetables that are in season because they are fresher and their nutritional value usually better. As opposed to something out of season that has probably been imported with many hours or air miles and storage before it gets to the supermarket shelf. The longer a fruit or vegetable is picked and stored the greater the nutritional loss.
  • Also pumpkins have amazing health protecting properties. They are high in potassium. Potassium encourages an alkaline body and in the past we have touched on this and the benefits of our bodies being more alkaline than acid because acidity favours cancer growth and alkalinity is said to be anti cancer.
  • Pumpkins are a rich source of beta carotene (as are all orange/ red coloured fruits and vegetables). Beta carotene converts in the body into vitamin A which is a powerful antioxidant protecting our cells from attack from free radicals that can damage the function of the cell and weaken its defences. This of course includes the cells of the immune system. If you remember free radicals come mainly from eating overheated or processed fats and cigarette smoking.
  • Pumpkins also contain two compounds called trigonelline and nicotinic acid. Both of these have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels by improving the action of insulin. Another recommendation for those with cancer is to have even regular blood sugar levels. See the link connecting you to the blog on the importance of regulating blood sugar when you have cancer.
  • Pumpkins are also a good source of vitamin C, zinc, iron and magnesium all important nutrients for keeping the immune system strong. Magnesium is needed by every single cell in the body for energy production and as fatigue can be a very real problem for many people with cancer magnesium in good amounts is very essential to help combat this. Other good sources of magnesium are found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, rye bread, brown rice, dried figs and apricots and molasses.
  • The seeds of the pumpkin when they are dried also have huge health benefits as they are rich in the essential fatty acid omega 3, calcium and magnesium. Omega 3 has been shown to have anti inflammatory properties and as cancer is an inflammatory process this would be very beneficial. Omega 3 also helps with the correct integrity of the cell membrane. This is important so the cells can communicate properly, absorb nutrients and release waste easily.
    Research would tell us that we as a nation are generally deficient in omega 3 simply because it comes in such few foods i.e. walnuts, oily types of fish, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds and their oils. Unless these foods are eaten regularly and in fairly large quantities it is hard to reach our recommended daily amount.

Pumpkin seed protein powder

There is a new product that has just come on the market which may be of interest to come of you. A pumpkin seed protein powder. I have not tried it myself but is has been labelled as a unique super food, as a source of organic vegetable protein.
It contains 10 g of protein per serving. An egg gives 60g which helps give us an idea of the amount. Not only it is nutrient dense but has a good flavour and dissolves easily in smoothies and juice. It can be sprinkled on salads, cereals, and cooked food. As you know I am keen on protein powders particularly for those with reduced appetites or find it difficult to eat. The pumpkin seed protein is available Omega Nutrition Products.

How to use pumpkins

Here are a couple of simple recipes that you could try, using pumpkin as the main ingredient.

Pumpkin Soup This soup is extra special, a very silky texture and it freezes well which is always important as it can be lifted out on those days when energy is not great and you do not feel like or have not got the time to cook.
1x 4 kg pumpkin
125g of butter of olive oil
2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
Freshly grated nutmeg
1.7litres of vegetable or chicken stock

  1. Chop the top off the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and fibre in the middle and discard
  2. Carefully hollow out the pumpkin. Removing the flesh and roughly chop the flesh
  3. Melt the butter in a large pan and gently cook the onion over a low heat until soft
  4. Add the pumpkin flesh, cinnamon, nutmeg and seasoning. Cook for 45 minutes until the pumpkin is soft with a lid on the pan. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add the stock, bring to the boil, remove from the heat and cook slightly. Blend the soup in a processor (you will need to do this in batches) or use a hand blender. Check seasoning.
  6. Return the soup to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Ready to serve.

Carrot and Beetroot Salad  (from the book Eat to Boost your Immunity but Kirsten Harvig) This makes the most of the pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, both are rich in omega 3. The salad is super healthy. The ginger aids digestion and the beetroot is good liver support. .

300g carrot grated
300g of beetroot grated
1 tsp fresh grated root ginger
2 tbsp pumpkin seed oil
4 tbsp olive oil
100g bean sprouts
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds and 3 tbsp sunflower seeds toasted.

  1. Mix the carrots, beetroot and ginger together

Add the onion and lemon juice and mix well. Add the bean sprouts and mix gently. Sprinkle over the toasted seeds. Serve.

Blog originally written by Caroline November 2012

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