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Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds: fall bone superstars

By Dr. Susan E. Brown, PhD

You know autumn is here when everyone start offering “pumpkin spice” products. Pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice doughnuts, pumpkin spice beer. (Someone, sooner or later, is going to start selling pumpkin spice pumpkins!)

I wonder if the cultural craving for pumpkin and the associated spices (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice) is really a desire for hardy, warming foods to stave off the cold. If so, I strongly recommend people ignore the pumpkin-flavored beverages and go for the real thing.

Pumpkins, squashes and their seeds are among the fall bone-building superstars! Here’s why I value the simple pumpkin — along with some of my favorite recipes.

3 ways pumpkin and pumpkin seeds help build bone

  1. Pumpkins are mineral rich and alkalizing. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, alkalizing our body chemistry helps to build and maintain bone — and pumpkin and its seeds are great alkalizers. What’s more, the flesh of pumpkin itself is very nutrient-dense, containing substantial amounts of important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and copper.
  2. Pumpkins are abundant in antioxidants. A major cause of force behind osteoporosis is oxidative damage, but both the seeds and the flesh of a pumpkin offer significant antioxidants. The orange color of pumpkin comes from carotenoids (it has beta-carotene in abundance), while the antioxidants zinc, selenium, and vitamin E are also tucked away into the pumpkin.
  3. Pumpkins supply needed healthy fats that reduce inflammation and help maintain bone strength. Pumpkin seed is high in plant-based omega-3 fat (alpha linolenic acid), which the body converts into the more essential omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA.  These omega-3 fats are highly anti-inflammatory and women with higher blood levels of these precious fats have been shown to have lower rates of hip fracture.

I could go on for a while, but wouldn’t it be better for you to just sit down and enjoy some pumpkin instead?

Pumpkin soup recipe

Ingredients
•    1 cooking pumpkin or large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
•    16–32 oz chicken, turkey or vegetable broth
•    1–2 Tbsp fresh ginger (to taste) minced (or 1 Tbsp ground dried ginger)
•    1 medium to large yellow onion, diced
•    1-2 Tbsp olive oil
•    2-4 cloves garlic
•    1/2 tsp turmeric
•    1/2 tsp cumin
•    chopped scallion for garnish
•    salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Boil pumpkin chunks in water or 16 oz of broth until soft (use water if you prefer a milder, more pumpkin-y and less broth-y flavor).

Mash the pumpkin and add 8 oz of broth (reserve the remaining 8 oz). Place over low heat and add the ginger, stirring occasionally.

In a separate skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil. When onions are soft, add turmeric, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 1 minute and add to pumpkin and ginger mix.

Slowly add the remaining broth, stirring constantly, until the soup is your preferred consistency (if you add all the broth and it's still thicker than you like, add water).

Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with scallion if desired.

Easy options for more flavors
• For a spicier soup, include 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
• For a sweeter soup, add 1 cup grated carrot to the pumpkin when boiling it initially, and/or add diced red or orange bell pepper in the sauté until soft before including in the soup.
• Add a bit of Caribbean to it by substituting coconut milk and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice in place of some of the broth, and use cilantro in place of scallion for garnish

Pumpkin seed granola recipe

Ingredients
•    2 to 3 cups of gluten free rolled oats
•    ½ cup pumpkin seeds (roasted)
•    1 cup almonds (shredded or chopped preferred)
•    ¼ cup of maple syrup
•    2 tablespoons of raw, brown sugar (for a sweeter granola)
•    ¼ cup of olive or coconut oil
•    1/3 cup of pumpkin puree
•    ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
•    ½ teaspoon ground ginger
•    ¼ teaspoon allspice
•    ½ teaspoon cinnamon
•    dash of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix dry ingredients together (oats, nuts, seeds, spices, salt, and sugar).

In a small sauce pan over low to medium heat, combine the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and oil. Whisk ingredients until warm.

Pour contents of saucepan over dry ingredients. Mix vigorously with wooden spoon.

Spread mixture on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Stir the contents of the baking sheet half way through to ensure even cooking.

Granola should be a golden brown when done. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Transfer to storage container once cooled.

PS: in case you’re wondering, other members of the squash family have similar properties. Butternut squash, acorn squash — they’re all good for your bones!

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We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.

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