DNA-repairing pumpkin curry

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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!

Ingredients

pumpkins basketFor this recipe you will need:

  • 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

Directions:

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. curry_2After 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

Pumpkin flesh, seeds, and skin contain several phytocosituents with medicinal properties [1]. pumpkin 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 [2].

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 [1]. Furthermore, they lower the risk of cataract development [2].

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 [3].

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 [1].

Black Beans

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 [4].
black beans 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 [4].
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 [4].

Ginger

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 [5]. 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 [5].

Regarding cancer, previous studies have shown that ginger extracts prevent the proliferation of tumerous cells [5], have a protective effect against damage caused by radiation [6], and inhibit the activity of various free radicals [5]. 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 [7]. Compared to those who received no treatment, gingerwomen reported to have significantly less pain when ginger was administered in the first three days of their menstrual cycle [7].
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 [7].

Substantial research has shown that ginger exerts beneficial effects on patients undergoing chemotherapy [8]. The gingerols and shogaols interact with the pathways involved in chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea, and significantly reduce these symptoms [8].

Spinach

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 humspinachan cells exposed to carcinogens, therefore lowering the risk of cancer development [9]. 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 [12]. Dietary nitrate has been also linked to increased oxygen perfusion to the brain, leading to improved cognitive functions [12]. This is of great importance to prevent and slow down age-related cognitive decline and dementia [12].

turmeric curcuminTurmeric

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 [13].

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 [14].

It is therefore important to regulate inflammation by, for example, eating foods rich in turmeric [13]. 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 [13]. Because curcumin is lipid-soluble, it is important to combine it with fats to promote its bioavailability and absorption into our body [15]. 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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References

1. Yadav, M. et al. 2010. Medicinal and biological potential of pumpkin: an updated review. Nutrition Research Reviews. 23: 184-190.

2. Kim, M. Y. et al. 2. Kim, M. Y. et al. 2012. Comparison of the chemical compositions and nutritive values of various pumpkin (Cucurbitaceae) species and parts. Nutrition Research and Practice. 6(1): 21-27.

3. Ryan, L. et al. 2008. Micellarisation of carotenoids from raw and cooked vegetables. Pland Foods for Human Nutrition. 63 (3): 127-133.

4. Hayat, I. et al. 2014. Nutritional and Health Perspectives of Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.): An Overview. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 54(5): 580-592.

5. Semwal, R. B. et al. 2015. Gingerols and shogaols: Important nutraceutical principles from ginger. Phytochemistry. 117: 554-568.

6. Khodaie, L. Sadeghpoor, O. 2015. Ginger From Ancient Times to the New Outlook. Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products. 10(1): e18402.

7. Daily, J. D. Zhang, X. Kim, D. S. Park, D. 2015. Efficacy of Ginger for Alleviating the Symptoms of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Pain Medicine. 16: 2243-2255.

8. Marx, W. et al. 2017. Ginger-Mechanism of action in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: A review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 57(1): 141-146.

9. Ferruzzi, M. G. Blakeslee, J. 2007. Digestion, absoprion, and cancer preventative activity of dietary chlorophyll derivatives. Nutrition Research Journal. 27(1): 1-12.

10. Jubert, C. et al. 2009. Effects of chlorophyll and chlorophyllin on low-dose aflatoxin B1(1) pharmacokinetics in human volunteers. Cancer Prevention Research. 2(12): 1015-1022.

11. Kapil, V. et al.2015. Dietary Nitrate Provides Sustained Blood Pressure Lowering in Hypertensive Patients: A Randomized, Phase 2, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Hypertension. 65: 00-00. DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04675

12. Kenjale, A. A. et al. 2011. Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances exercise performance in peripheral arterial disease. Journal of Applied Physiology. 110(6): 1582-1591.

13. Kunnumakkara, A. B. et al. 2016. Curcumin, the golden nutraceutical: for multiple chronic diseases. British Journal of Pharmacology. doi: 10.1111/bph.13621

14. Rakoff-Nahoum, S. 2007. Why Cancer and Inflammation? Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 79(3-4): 123-130.15. Bohn, T. 2014. Dietary factors affecting polyphenol bioavailability. Nutrition Reviews. 72(7): 429-452.

Solange Brugnatelli Vianini

Solange Brugnatelli Vianini graduated in BSc Biomedical Sciences.

In her free time she enjoys trying out new recipes and sharing them with friends, and marrying this passion with her interest in sustainability, which is driving her actions towards reduced landfill waste, carbon footprint and animal products consumption. She cures a monthly recipe column on Nature Going Smart “with disease prevention in mind and planet care on the heart”.

Solange is currently researching genetic mutations by honing her bioinformatic skills at Abertay University, Scotland.

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