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Pumpkins generally weigh between 3 to 8 kilograms. They are widely used both as food and in recreation. In the decoration around Halloween, pumpkins are carved as jack- o’- lanterns. Pumpkin thanksgiving pie is a traditional part of meals in Canada and United States. Pumpkin seeds, leaves and juice are also widely used for healthy lifestyle. Let’s take a look at the various nutritional components of pumpkins and health benefits related with them.
Nutritional value of Pumpkin
Pumpkins are power- house of Vitamin A, C and E, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They are one of the best known source of provitamin A, beta carotene. 100 grams of cooked pumpkin provide almost 200% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A. It is rich in potassium too. They also contain vitamin B, manganese, iron, copper and phosphorus. As they are low in calories, dietitians recommend it for weight loss and cholesterol control. Pumpkin seeds are rich in dietary fibers and they help in lowering the blood cholesterol levels.
Health benefits of Pumpkin
1. Beneficial for eyesight
Pumpkins are well known source of vitamin A. They have beneficial effects for eyes and eyesight. Their yellow to orange colour is because of the beta- carotene and the body converts this beta- carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A protects the cornea and allows to see under low light conditions. It sharpens the vision, especially in dim light. It also helps to prevent degenerative damage to the eyes and age related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants are also present in pumpkin and they help to prevent cataract. Therefore, one must include it in the diet for good eyesight.
2. Regulation of Blood pressure
Pumpkins help in regulating the blood pressure and ultimately the heart health. The vitamin C, fiber and potassium contents of it are beneficial for heart. Potassium content lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of stroke, preserves bone mineral density and also maintains muscle mass. The fiber content lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Consumption of adequate potassium is almost equally important to decreased sodium intake in the treatment of high blood pressure.
3. Helps to control Diabetes
Pumpkin helps to control diabetes as it is rich in dietary fibers. It contains various compounds which have blood- sugar lowering (hypoglycaemic) effects. Pumpkin seeds and the pulp help in absorption of glucose into the tissue and balance the blood glucose levels. So, doctors recommend use of this ubiquitous fruit in diabetes patients.
4. Reduces the risk of Cancer
As pumpkins contain vitamin A, C, E and antioxidants, it help in reducing the risk of various types of cancer such as- prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer etc. The antioxidants protect the body from free radicals, which can induce cancer. Phytoestrogens present in the seeds act as human estrogen hormone and help in preventing breast cancer. So, one should add pumpkin to the diet to reduce the risk of cancer.
5. Improves Immunity
Pumpkins boost the immunity and help in fighting against infections. Vitamin C raise the immunity and also reduces the severity of cold. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides approximately 20% of daily recommended value of vitamin C. As they are also great source of folic acid, riboflavin, manganese etc, these all are essential for good immunity.
6. Helps in weight loss
Pumpkins are low in calories and contain good amount of dietary fiber, both of which help in reducing weight. Therefore, dietitian recommend it for weight loss. They also keep the body hydrated and full all the day. Pumpkin juice can be used as an energy drink after workout sessions. The juice also replenishes the body minerals.
7. Help combat Asthma
Pumpkins contain various minerals including plenty of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds also contain omega- 3 fatty acids which are also said to have beneficial effects in asthma. In asthma, there is inflammation in the airways along with contraction of the muscles of airways. Magnesium relaxes the muscles of respiratory tract and provides relief in asthma. It also reduces the risk of flare- ups in asthma. Omega- 3 fatty acids also relieve the asthma symptoms.
8. Anti- ageing effect
Skin ageing is a part of natural human life and it is a complex biological process. Pumpkins has an anti- ageing effect. As they are good source of vitamin C, they help in increasing the collagen production in the body. This collagen helps in reducing the wrinkles of the skin. The beta- carotene content protects the skin from ultra- violet rays (sun rays). Pumpkins also contain antioxidants, which reduce and neutralize the free radicals. Therefore, it improves the skin condition and delay the ageing. So the skin remains soft and smooth.
9. Reduces blood cholesterol levels
Pumpkin seeds contain plant sterols, which help in lowering the low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. So, regular consumption of pumpkin seeds have positive impact on the blood cholesterol levels. Pumpkin seeds oil also helps in improving health by lowering cholesterol levels as well as provide various vitamins and minerals.
10. Improves sexual health and fertility
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and zinc helps in erection. The seeds also raise the testosterone hormone levels in men and increase the sexual desire. So, it helps to boost male sexual health.
Pumpkin seeds oil is also helpful in female sexual health. It promotes fertility in the women of child bearing age group. Vitamin A is present in pumpkins, which is essential during pregnancy and lactation for hormone synthesis. It also reduces the postmenopausal signs such as hot flashes, headache and joint pain. So, one should add pumpkin to their diet to boost their sexual health.
11. Provides good sleep
As they are rich in tryptophan, they help in providing a good sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and human body can not produce it. Therefore it must be acquired from the food. Human body converts tryptophan into serotonin, melatonin and vitamin B6. In the brain, serotonin can alter the mood. Melatonin is important for sleep and vitamin B6 is important for energy metabolism.
12. Reduces inflammation
Pumpkin seeds oil contain omega- 3 fatty acids which help in reducing the inflammation. So, they are helpful in various inflammatory diseases such as- Arthritis, asthma etc. The oil also act as a medication in arthritis patients.
13. Helps in digestion
Pumpkins are a fantastic source of dietary fiber and the dietary fiber helps in the digestion. They promote regular bowel movements and helps in smooth digestion. Fiber slows the rate of sugar absorption into the blood and also absorbs excess water. Dietary fiber content also help in reducing the risk of colon cancer by improving digestion mechanism. The high fiber content helps in both the constipation and diarrhoea.
14. Reduces the chances of Anaemia
Both the pumpkins and seeds are rich source of iron and other minerals such as zinc, magnesium etc. Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common cause of anemia in developing countries. Pumpkins are easily available throughout the world and the iron content of it helps in replenishing blood and prevent anaemia.
15. Helps in muscle, nerve and bone health
Pumpkins are rich source of various minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. Potassium has an important role in nerve stimulation and function. These minerals also help to build and maintain bone health. These micronutrients also supports the muscle growth.
Pumpkins are grown worldwide for a variety of purposes such as for commercial use, agricultural (animal feed) and decoration or ornamental sales. They are very versatile in their uses in cooking and most of their parts are edible such as pulp, seeds, leaves and even the flowers. They are a powerhouse of various micronutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, antioxidants, minerals and dietary fiber. Therefore, they are useful for dieting, regulating blood pressure, and maintaining good health of various organs such as heart, lungs, digestive system, immune system and eyes. They can be used as boiled, steamed and mashed. One can also make soup and juice of pumpkins. Pumpkin pie is more popular in Canada and America as a Thanksgiving meal.
Roasted seeds can be used as snacks and they provide plenty of minerals and dietary fibers. Sweet dishes of pumpkin like halwa etc are also popular. The leaves and the pumpkins can be consumed as vegetable. This versatile fruit has a lots of health benefits including the heart, sexual health, digestive health and vision. So, one must include pumpkins into their diet for maintaining a good health and improving immunity for fighting against various infections.