This time of year, pumpkins are ubiquitous, decorating front steps, eventually carved for Halloween jack-o-lanterns, and gracing the table as pumpkin pie usually once a year for Thanksgiving. After November this healthy anti-cancer food is often ignored, disappearing from our diet for another 11 months, usually preceded by the lament of, “But I don’t know what do with it!” We’re here to tell you that this humble squash has many uses, helps fight breast cancer, and is delicious to boot!
How Pumpkins Help Fight Breast Cancer
- Fiber – As with all fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is a good source of fiber. One study shows that those who ate the most dietary fiber had a 11% lower risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to those who ate the least.
- Beta-carotene – Beta-carotene is converted into the body to Vitamin A, a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, which can cause cancer. Pumpkin is one of the highest sources of beta-carotene delivering 17mg per 1 cup.
- Phytoestrogens – Pumpkin seeds contain phytoestrogens, a plant compound that mimics the human hormone estrogenA female sex hormone that is primarily produced by the ovaries. Its primary function is to regulate the menstrual cycle and assist in the production of secondary sex characteristics such as breasts. It may even play a role in the production of cancer cells in the breast tissue. and can help prevent breast cancer according to one study.
- Low-calorie – Pumpkin is a source of low-calorie nutrition, which reduces the risk of obesity, a major factor in breast cancer.
How to Cook A Pumpkin
By far one of the biggest excuses to using fresh pumpkin is the intimidation factor. Let’s be honest, it’s probably one of the largest and toughest looking fruits (yes, it’s a fruit) that will enter your kitchen all year. Good news? It’s much easier to get inside to the yummy good stuff than you think. Check out these pumpkin cutting and cooking directions. You can even purée extra and freeze it for later. Canned pumpkin (not the same as pumpkin pie filling!) has many of the same benefits of fresh pumpkin, but as with most processed foods, not all the benefits, so use fresh if you can.
Cancer-Fighting Pumpkin Recipes
These recipes pair fresh pumpkin with an array of other cancer-fighting ingredients.
- Pan-seared scallops with pumpkin risotto
- Maple pumpkin mousses
- Eggplant Steaks with Pumpkin, Tomato, and Mushroom Ragoût
- Warm Pumpkin Salad with Polenta and Candied Pumpkin Seeds
- Fresh pumpkin purée – great for adding to smoothies or substituting for canned purée in standard recipes
- Creamy pumpkin and cashew curry
- Black-eyed pea and pumpkin salad
- Pumpkin-pear crisps
[Photo by John-Morgan]