It turns out that pumpkin, a cultivar of the squash plant, is good for more than the spellbinding toothy-grinned jack-o-lantern that scares unsuspecting trick-or-treaters on your front porch stoop. These guilt-free pumpkin bars are brimming with festive fall spices including cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and are the perfect autumn indulgence.
A staple of traditional medicine, pumpkin has been demonstrated to elicit anti-diabetic, anticancer, antibacterial, anti-hypercholesterolemia, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, immunomodulatory, and intestinal antiparasitic effects (Jafarian et al., 2012). The polysaccharides, or polymeric carbohydrate molecules within pumpkin, elicit significant antioxidant and cytoprotective effects, such that pumpkin may aid in ameliorating some of the oxidative stress and inflammation behind most chronic and degenerative diseases (Song et al., 2013).
In addition, the seed oil derived from pumpkin produces antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects through a mechanism involving production of the vasodilatory compound nitric oxide (NO), and improves plasma lipid profiles and both diastolic and systolic blood pressure in rodent models (El-Mosallamy et al., 2012; Gossel-Williams et al., 2008). Although human trials are required to draw definitive conclusions, these data suggest pumpkin may be a useful food-as-medicine strategy for obesity and metabolic syndrome, the precursors to cardiovascular disease (El-Mosallamy et al., 2012).
El-Mosallamy, A.E. et al. (2012). Antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects of pumpkin seed oil. Journal of Medical Food, 15(2), 180-189. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2010.0299.
Gossell-Williams, M. et al. (2008). Supplementation with pumpkin seed oil improves plasma lipid profile and cardiovascular outcomes of female non-ovariectomized and ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats. Phytotherapy Research, 22(7), 873-877. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2381.
Jafarian, A., Zolfaghari, B., & Parnianifard, M. (2012). The effects of methanolic, chloroform, and ethylacetate extracts of the Cucurbita pepo L. on the delay type hypersensitivity and antibody production. Research in Pharmaceutical Science, 7(4), 217-224.
Song, Y. et al. (2013). Effect of acetylation on antioxidant and cytoprotective activity of polysaccharides isolated from pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo, lady godiva). Carbohydrate Polymers, 7(4), 217-224.