Autumn’s big, fat, round, orange icon; the pumpkin.
There is something so loveable about the pumpkin’s bright, cheerful, orange color and huggable round body. And, at the beginning of a season of shorter, darker, colder days the eternally optimistic pumpkin turns into a jack-o-lantern and reminds us there is fun to be had any time of the year. There is also the wonderful quality pumpkins have of being such a perfect match for cinnamon and warming spices which makes any day dreary better.
Mother Nature must have a special place in her heart for her pumpkins, as they show her brilliance in providing a food rich in the very nutrients we need the most going into a colder season and even after harvest can be stored for many weeks before eating. The many valuable nutrients in pumpkin really put it into the “superfood” class. High in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins A, C and E.
A very important nutrient in pumpkin is the synergistic combination of antioxidant carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bio-available carotenoids known. Carotenoids are deep orange, yellow, or red-colored, fat-soluble compounds that occur in a variety of plants. Foods rich in carotenoids have been linked to a host of health-promoting and disease-fighting activities. They have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including skin cancer. In the landmark Nurses’ Health Study, women with the highest concentrations of carotenes in their diets had the lowest risk of breast cancer. Carotenoid consumption also decreases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. The two carotenoids that are abundant in pumpkin—beta-carotene and alpha- carotene—are particularly potent phytonutrients.
As it turns out, the properties that make pumpkin so nourishing for the body also benefit the skin. A few innovative skin care companies have designed facial masques with pumpkin as a key ingredient with great success. The natural enzymes found in pumpkin make it a safe and effective exfoliator– a gentle alternative to harsh chemical peels. Pumpkin also contains the highest concentration of salicylic acid of any plant, which is a beta-hydroxy acid. Salicylic is used to deep clean the pores and remove surface build-up. Pumpkin’s phytonutrients infuse the skin with important elements that bring about cellular rejuvenation and strengthen weakened skin structures. This is especially important for aging or damaged skin, which does not renew itself as effectively as young skin.
Throughout our lives we are exposed to free radicals or unstable molecules which cause damage to our skin cells and break down connective fibers. This can happen from environmental toxins, stress, deficient diets and daily living. Antioxidants, like those in pumpkin, protect our skin cells by neutralizing free radicals which help keep our skin structures intact and prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Pumpkin seeds are also uniquely beneficial for skin. They are rich in the skin healing vitamins and minerals such as E, B complex vitamins, selenium and zinc. The oil in pumpkin seeds contains mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid and essential fatty acids which help regulate proper skin sebum (oil) production, making it useful for both oily/acne-prone skin and dry skin.
With all these wonderful benefits it’s easy to see pumpkin as a beauty treatment. And, if their cheery exterior, yummy insides and crunchy seeds puts a beautiful smile on your face, even better. So this fall if someone endearingly calls you “pumpkin”, consider it the ultimate compliment for your smooth, glowing complexion.
by Mary Dellene