DNA-repairing pumpkin curry
Autumn has come, bringing us cold weather and yummy vegetables: pumpkins, spinach, beans, and many more. That means, it’s the perfect time to make a warming and healing curry!
- 1 pumpkin
- Spices (amount to your taste): turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili peppers, black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 onion
- 1 inch of ginger root
- One bunch of spinach (400-700 g)
- 1 red pepper
- 50 g of creamed coconut
- 1 tablespoon of coconut butter
- Fresh coriander leaves
- 100-150 g dried black beans (soak for 12 hours, then boil for 40 minutes) –Optional topping: lime slices and pumpkin seeds
Start with melting a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large pan. When completely liquid, add one chopped onion and let it fry until golden. At this point, add chopped ginger and garlic, and the curry spices: turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili peppers, black pepper. After a couple of minutes, add the chopped pumpkin.
If the pumpkin is organic and you want to get as many nutrients as possible, I suggest you to keep the peel on. Cover with hot water and let cook for 20 minutes. Add the chopped pepper, and let cook for another 10 minutes.
Add the beans, the spinach, and the coriander leaves, along with the creamed coconut. Cook for another 3 minutes stirring well.
For extra flavour and nutrients, you can serve the dish with lime slices and pumpkin seeds. Here we combined the curry with brown rice, but you can also eat it on its own. If desired, add salt and.. enjoy!
The ingredients benefits:
Pumpkin flesh, seeds, and skin contain several phytocosituents with medicinal properties . Tocopherols (also known as vitamin E) in the seeds protect the cells from oxidative damage. In the flesh, the alpha- and beta-carotenes, the orange pigments that give pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes their characteristic colour, act as anti-inflammatory agents .
Previous studies have shown that alpha- and beta-carotenes reduce skin damage caused by UV-light and also prevent tumour formation, in particular prostate cancer . Furthermore, they lower the risk of cataract development .
Vitamin E and carotenes are lipid-soluble molecules, suggesting that they are more easily transported around and absorbed by our body when eaten together with fats, such as coconut oil .
The anti-oxidative properties of vitamin E and carotenes in pumpkins have shown to reduce the symptoms linked to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and obesity .
Black beans are recognized as a good source of proteins, dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins, and a variety of phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties .
The insoluble fibre in beans increases the volume of matter that travels through our gastro-intestinal tract. As a result, carbohydrates such as glucose are slowly released into the blood circulation. This process is considered valuable in the management of and prevention from different diseases, in particular diabetes .
Furthermore, the fermentation in the intestine of resistant starch from beans results in the production of butyrate, a fatty acid that has shown protective effects against colon cancer .
Ginger roots are a powerhouse of nutrients. Commonly used in tea during the flu season, ginger exhibits a wide range of biological activities, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, anti-allergic, and antimicrobial activities . The compounds to which ginger owes its benefits are: gingerols, present in the fresh root, and shogaols, molecules derived from gingerols when ginger is dried or cooked .
Regarding cancer, previous studies have shown that ginger extracts prevent the proliferation of tumerous cells , have a protective effect against damage caused by radiation , and inhibit the activity of various free radicals . These are responsible for damage to our cells, increasing the chances to develop DNA mutations and subsequently tumours.
Ginger has also shown to be a promising pain-killing agent in women affected by dysmenorrhea . Compared to those who received no treatment, women reported to have significantly less pain when ginger was administered in the first three days of their menstrual cycle .
In studies that compared ginger with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen), it was shown that ginger was equally as effective as the anti-analgesic drug treatment .
Substantial research has shown that ginger exerts beneficial effects on patients undergoing chemotherapy . The gingerols and shogaols interact with the pathways involved in chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea, and significantly reduce these symptoms .
Spinach leaves owe their green colour to a pigment called chlorophyll. Recent studies have shown that chlorophyll binds to carcinogens, such as aflatoxin, and significantly reduces their absorption into the bloodstream [9, 10].
This means that chlorophyll can prevent DNA damage of human cells exposed to carcinogens, therefore lowering the risk of cancer development . Significant research has also been done on dietary nitrate. This is a compound present in – for example – beetroot, spinach, and aragula. Nitrate has been linked to a more efficient use of oxygen in athletes and people affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases [11, 12].
It does so by vasodilating blood vessels, significantly reducing blood pressure in people affected by hypertension and allowing a greater oxygen flow to the tissues . Dietary nitrate has been also linked to increased oxygen perfusion to the brain, leading to improved cognitive functions . This is of great importance to prevent and slow down age-related cognitive decline and dementia .
Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent that has shown beneficial effects to people affected by cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic diseases linked to inflammation .
Inflammation is a protective response of the immune system to potentially harmful substances. In this state, the organism releases leukocytes (white blood cells) that neutralise and digest foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and cancerous cells. In doing so, leukocytes release free-radicals, which damage the harmful substances, but also the surrounding cells. This can lead to unwanted damage to our own tissues and, when inflammation is prolonged, to chronic diseases: cancer, diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases .
It is therefore important to regulate inflammation by, for example, eating foods rich in turmeric . Curcumin has also shown to enhance the expression of p53 protein, a molecule known as the guardian of our genome. P53 is able to activate DNA repair proteins, therefore reducing the risk of unwanted mutations and the formation of tumours . Because curcumin is lipid-soluble, it is important to combine it with fats to promote its bioavailability and absorption into our body . Previous studies have also shown that piperine (a compound found in black pepper) intake can increase up to 20 times the uptake of curcumin [13, 15].
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