Low in calorie, high in fibre, pumpkins have long been part of a weight loss diet. But do you know that pumpkins are also listed among other cancer-squashing superfoods thanks to the amount of carotenes in this fruit?
Yes, pumpkins, like other winter squash, are an excellent source of carotenes – the richer the color the richer the concentration of carotenes.
Beta-carotene in pumpkins is a powerful antioxidant: once inside the body, it is converted into vitamin A, a type of antioxidant, which triggers the creation of white blood cells that fight infection. Dietary intake of pumpkin was found to be effective against several types of cancers, which includes:
Postmenopausal women with breast cancer and a high intake of enterolactone have been found to be less likely to die from their breast cancer than those with a low intake. Enterolactone has also been found to increase the sensitivity of breast cancer cells to radiation, thereby potentially enhancing the treatment effects of radiotherapy.
Cucurbitacin E has been shown to inhibit triple negative breast cancer metastasis in the laboratory by suppressing cell migration and invasion. Most of the population-based breast cancer studies performed to date that specifically included pumpkins were conducted in Japan (since pumpkin consumption is higher there than in the U.S. or Europe). One Japanese study found that consuming vegetables (specifically including pumpkins) reduced the risk of gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancer, regardless of the family history of cancer. Another Japanese study found reductions in breast cancer risk associated with high intakes of green-yellow vegetables (green leafy vegetables, carrots and pumpkins) among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
It’s been shown that women who eat pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds daily had 14% less breast cancer risk in Germany. However, moderation is key, so be cautious with the daily intake of pumpkin seeds as they contain copper which is attributable to angiogenesis and metastasis.
Carotene has also been shown to have a positive impact on prostate cancer patients. An earlier study found that pumpkin seed oil could block certain types of prostate growth. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in zinc, an essential mineral for prostate function. In fact, a normal prostate has the highest levels of zinc in the body.
Beware that pumpkin seeds are high in fibre, so consuming a large amount of pumpkin seeds at once may cause constipation, gas, and bloating.
Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin C, which helps protect skin from free radical damage, such as wrinkles and even skin cancer. Eating vitamin C rich foods also helps promote collagen production, which over time can improve skin tone and elasticity.
Carotenoids in pumpkins are also capable of reversing UV damage and improving skin texture.
In this just-published study, researchers discovered for the first time that cucurbitacin B (found abundantly in pumpkin and winter squash) not only eradicated nearly all human lung cancer cells in vitro, but also sharply reduced the cancer cells’ ability to spread (by 96%) and make new cancer cell colonies (by 99%). But does this lab result translate into real world benefits? Several population studies suggest yes, showing that those eating three or more servings weekly of this super vegetable had 41% less lung cancer, 29% less stomach cancer, and 22% less breast cancer. Most impressive was a study out of India where just one serving weekly of pumpkin reduced lung cancer risk by a stunning 85%!
This fall, don’t miss on the opportunities to fill your dining table with some pumpkin soup, pumpkin pine, pumpkin salad, or anything pumpkin-related, because they are nutritious, delicious, anti-cancer superfoods, and well…this fruit only comes once a year !