Why Pumpkin And Pumpkin Seeds Are Good For You? Some Nutritional And Health Benefits
Pumpkin is a squash like vegetable belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae. Though a fruit, not in the conventional sense that we have come to recognize them, it is considered a vegetable.
In India, Pumpkin is called Petha Kaddu or Kaddu.
Latin Name : Cucurbita Species cultivars like Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita mixta, Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata.
Pumpkin is native to North America. Though commonly pumpkins vary from 4 to 8 kgs weight to the weightier ones at about 35 kgs, there are extremes of some weighing as low as 1 pound to the massive ones weighing over 1000 pounds.
The shape of pumpkin can vary from oblate to oblong. The skin is smooth but ribbed. The skin and flesh is usually orange yellow but fruits have been seen to have colors ranging from white to red to gray and even green colors.
All pumpkin plants bear both the male and female flowers. The female flower can be distinguished by the presence of the swollen ovary at the base of the petals as seen in the picture.
Pumpkins are produced all over the world and India, China, Mexico, United States and Canada are the biggest producers of pumpkin in the world.
Uses Of Pumpkin
All parts of the pumpkin like the flesh, seeds, leaves, flowers are edible and can be used in more ways than one. Pumpkin can be cooked in a variety of ways and eaten like boiled, baked, steamed and roasted.
Pumpkin is used in soups and purees and often made into a pie. Pumpkin is used to make sweet dishes in the Middle East while in Myanmar it is used to make desserts apart from using it in cooking. Pumpkin is also used to flavor alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages.
Roasted pumpkin seeds called pepitas are popularly used as a snack while the pumpkin seed oil is used both for cooking as well as a salad oil.
Canned pumpkin is usually recommended by veterinarians for correcting digestive upsets in dogs and cats.
Raw pumpkin is fed to poultry to maintain egg production in the winters the season when the production tends to drop.
Pumpkins are used to carve decorative lanterns called Jack-o-lanterns for the Halloween season in North America.
Pumpkin is used to make exfoliating face masks, body butter, pumpkin candles and other DIY projects at home.
Soft and squishy pumpkins can be put in the compost bin along with the skin and guts.
Nutrients/Nutritional Benefits Of Pumpkin
- Pumpkin is low in calories and provides just 26 calories per 100 grams.
- It is free of all types of fats and cholesterol.
- It is rich in dietary fiber and antioxidant vitamins like vitamins A, C and E.
- Pumpkin is a wonderful source of many polyphenolic flavonoids like beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.
- It provides about 246% of the daily recommended levels of vitamin A.
- It is a good source of the B complex vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin and pantothenic acid.
- Pumpkin is rich in the minerals copper, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
- It is an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins, and are high in calories providing about 559 calories, 30 grams of protein, 110% of the daily requirements of iron, 31% of niacin, 17% of selenium, 71% of zinc etc. They are free of cholesterol.
- The seeds are excellent source of tryptophan, the health promoting amino acid.
Nutrients In Pumpkin Seeds dried
Pumpkin (Cucurbita spp.), dried
Nutritive value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Percentage of RDA
Health Benefits Of Pumpkin
- The carotenoids in pumpkin keep the eyesight sharp and reduce risk of age related macular degeneration and cataract.
A cup of cooked pumpkins provide over 200% of the daily requirements of vitamin A and good levels of vitamin A is needed for eye health.
The carotenoids that the pumpkin is rich in, especially beta carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A.
- Pumpkin helps in losing weight.
Pumpkin provides just 50 calories per cup of serving but it provides 3 grams of dietary fiber which helps to keep the stomach full longer on lower calories, thus helping to keep off both hunger and weight at bay.
- Pumpkin seeds benefit the heart.
The phytosterols of which the pumpkin is a good source help in lowering LDL or the bad cholesterol.+
- According to the National Cancer Institute the orange pigment beta carotene possibly plays a role in reducing cancer risk. This is especially so when beta carotene is obtained from food rather than supplements. The phytosterols also reduce risk of certain cancers.
The beta cryptoxanthin decreases risk of lung cancer in smokers.
- Pumpkin protects the skin
The carotenoids in pumpkin neutralize free radicals and also keep the skin wrinkle free and delay aging.
- Because pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan, the consumption of seeds helps in the production of the mood elevator serotonin.
Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds will keep one's mood perked up.
- A cup of cooked pumpkin has more potassium than a banana. Potassium restores the body's electrolyte balance after a heavy workout and also keeps the muscles working at their optimum.
Potassium also helps to lower the risk of hypertension.
- Pumpkin boosts the immune system.
Pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin C providing almost 20% of the women's daily needs, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Vitamin C is known to boost immunity levels.
- The zinc content in pumpkin improves the bone density while the calcium and phosphorus make the bones strong.
- Pumpkin seeds that are a bit old in age increase in nutritive value. In tests, the Massachusetts Experimental Station found that pumpkin seeds stored for more than 5 months showed increased protein levels.
- Pumpkin seeds prevent formation of calcium oxalate stones in kidneys.
- Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds reduce inflammation in arthritis.
- Pumpkin seeds are good for prostate health and alleviate urinary problems associated with enlarged prostate..
- Pumpkin seeds though not a very good source of vitamin E in the form of alpha tocopherol contain a wide variety of forms of this vitamin.
It has been found that the health benefits from any vitamin are more when that vitamin is made available in all its different forms.
In case of pumpkin seeds vitamin E is available in the following forms : alpha tocopherol, gamma tocopherol, delta tocopherol, delta tocopherol, alpha tocomonenol and gamma tocomonoenol. The wide range of forms brings more benefits than one would otherwise get with vitamin E.
- Pumpkin seeds, seed extracts and seed oil have anti microbial properties including being antifungal and antiviral.
According to whfoods, pumpkin seeds should not be roasted for more than 15 to 20 minutes as otherwise unwanted changes occur in the fat structure.
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or healthcare provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
Some Of My Other Hubs On Healthy Foods
- The Natural Sweetener Stevia Plant And Its Health Benefits
The leaves of the stevia plant are a natural sweetener. The stevia leaf extracts, stevioside and rebaudioside are many times sweeter than sugar and far safer. Learn about the health benefits of stevia...
- Passion Fruit - Nutrition And Health Benefits
Passion fruit is an exotic tropical fruit that has many benefits. Learn about some very important nutrient, nutritional and health benefits of passion fruit by reading on...
- Facts About Red Wine And The Health Benefits Of Red Wine
Red wine, of all the different types of wines, offers a variety of health benefits, if consumed in moderation. Read on for more about the facts and health benefits of red wine...
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly