Pile of pumpkins

Pumpkins have been cultivated for several millennia, yet only few of us regularly include the pumpkin’s seeds and flesh in our diets. Especially patients with high cholesterol can benefit from using pumpkin seeds and oil for cooking. Time to take another look at this remarkable vegetable and its merits!

How can pumpkin seeds lower high cholesterol?

Regularly consuming pumpkin seeds can have a powerful positive impact on your cholesterol levels. They contain a compound called phytosterol, which is very effective in lowering ldl-cholesterol levels. Phytosterols reduce your cholesterol levels by blocking the absorption of harmful cholesterol from your diet.

According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), increasing your daily intake of phytosterols from the average intake of 150 -400mg to 1.5 or 2.4 grams a day can lead to a reduction of ldl-cholesterol as significant as 7 to 10.5%. And there is more good news - the results of this effect can be seen within 2 - 3 weeks of changing your diet. Clinical trials conducted by the FDA confirmed this hypothesis and also proved that increasing your phytosterol intake reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. With 94 - 265mg per 100g, pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of phytosterol.

The health benefits of pumpkin oil

Alternatively, using pumpkin seed oil can be an easy way to improve your health. It makes a great addition to salad dressings and soups, gourmets even add it to desserts and icecream. Just like the seeds it is made out of, its health benefits don’t stop at lowering cholesterol. It also contains numerous vitamins and antioxidants, such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, C, D, E, and K, magnesium, iron and calcium. It is also rich in and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

The seeds are not the only part of the pumpkin worth eating regularly. The sweet flesh of the pumpkin is a good source of carbohydrates and fibre, as well as a number of essential minerals and vitamins. It is particularly rich in vitamin A - 100 grams of pumpkin flesh contains 246% of the daily recommended vitamin A intake. Pumpkin is a popular ingredient for soups and curries and makes a healthy addition to cakes and omelettes.

Nutritional value aside, the pumpkin has other noteworthy qualities - as the following fun facts demonstrate:

Five Fun Pumpkin Facts

1. Pumpkins were already being cultivated in parts of Northern America and Mexico as far back as 5500 bc and 7000 bc.

2. The world record for “biggest pumpkin” is currently being held by a 2032 pound specimen from California. It was presented at the Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park on October 12, 2013.

3. The term pumpkin derives from the Greek word “pepon”, which translates as “large melon”.

4. Pumpkins feature in numerous fairytales and play an important part in western folklore. Popular Pumpkin-based characters include Jack Pumpkinhead in the children’s favourite The Wizard of Oz.

5. According to an Irish legend, an undead character called Stingy Jack roams the earth, as he is neither allowed to enter heaven nor hell. He carries a pumpkin as a lantern - hence the Halloween Jack-o-lantern tradition.

Whether you are looking to lower your cholesterol or simply want to make your diet a little healthier, there are plenty of reasons and ways to enjoy pumpkin - not only on Halloween.

For a healthy low cholesterol pumpkin soup, try the following simple recipe:

Pumpkin Soup

Olive oil
1 onion
1/2 teaspoon of garlic
1 pumpkin
4 potatoes

To season:

- ginger
- salt and pepper
- 1 stock cube
- orange juice
- coconut milk

1. Fry the finely chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil.
2. Cut the potatoes and the pumpkin.
3. Add the diced vegetables to the pot and cover them with water.
4. Boil until soft (this should take approximately 20 min).
5. Blend the soup.
6. Add a little orange juice, ginger and the stock cube, stir well.
7. Add a little coconut milk.
8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For a spicy soup, add chili powder.
This soup is suitable for freezing.

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