Properties and Benefits of Pumpkin: As pagan traditions demand it, every Halloween hundreds of thousands of pumpkins are sacrificed for pure amusement without people even realizing how amazingly nutritious this fruit actually is. Pumpkins (Curcubita pepo) are an amazing source of vitamin A, the ultimate nutrient for healthy eyes, nose, mouth, lungs and stomach mucosas.
Moreover, they are full of antioxidant carotenoids, lutein and beta-carotene which offer incredible protection against free radical damage and related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. Rich in fiber and low in fat, the average pumpkin helps regulate cholesterol levels and promotes colon health. Preliminary research also suggests that pumpkin consumption helps regulate post-meal insulin and blood sugar levels.
Although it is regarded as a culinary vegetable, from a botanical point of view pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) is a fruit. The iconic pumpkin image is that of a 4-8 kg, somewhat round, ribbed, soft skinned, bright orange squash with a hard, thick shell and just as bright orange pulp. However, in some countries, the term ‘pumpkin’ refers to several other green or gray-skinned winter squash varieties of a relatively sweet, bright orange flesh and of various shapes and sizes.
Pumpkin pulp, pumpkin seeds, even leaves and flowers (of some cultivars) are all edible, not to mention incredibly nutritious. Here are the top 6 amazing health benefits of pumpkin consumption:
1) Weight loss. With only 26 kcal/100 g of flesh, 91.6% water and less than 0.1% fat, pumpkin is an ideal food if you are looking to lose weight. You can enjoy one or two healthy servings of sweet baked pumpkin instead of sugared candy or pastry and start shedding pounds slowly, but steadily, without having to resort to any diet plan.
2) Treats constipation naturally and promotes colon health. If you have ever eaten a slice of baked pumpkin, then you know that it will send you pooping in no more than an hour, even if you are feeling a bit constipated. This is because pumpkin is rich in fiber. Dietary fiber adds bulk to stool and thus encourages pooping (defecation). When poop spends less time inside, our colon is less exposed to toxins, thus healthier. According to research, a diet consisting of fiber-rich foods may significantly decrease colon cancer risks.
3) Promotes cardiovascular health. Having a good fiber content, pumpkin prevents too much fat from being absorbed at intestinal level and thus indirectly contributes to lowering blood cholesterol levels. Since it basically has no fat (<0.1%), especially no harmful saturated fatty acids and no cholesterol, regular consumption favors a healthy blood lipid profile and supports artery health.
Pumpkin seeds are even richer in fiber and healthy mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids which contribute to cardiovascular health.
4) Incredible source of vitamin A. Pumpkin provides 246% of the RDA of vitamin A, as well as vitamin A precursors with potent antioxidant activity. Vitamin A-rich foods such as pumpkin strengthen the immune system by stimulating the production of lymphocytes. Because it ensures healthy eyes, nose, mouth, lungs and stomach mucous membranes, vitamin A builds up immunity and reduces the risk of recurrent infections.
5) Rich in antioxidants. Pumpkin owes its deep orange pigment to lutein, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, three carotenoids with powerful antioxidant activities. Lutein, for example, is physically present in our retina and is responsible for maintaining good eyesight well into old age. Studies link lutein to a decreased risk of macular degeneration (loss of central vision). The high amounts of beta-carotene in pumpkin prevent cell damage caused by free radicals from accumulating and causing mutations that may lead to cancer. Because it is also a precursor for vitamin A, a part of the beta-carotene we absorb from eating pumpkin gets turned into retinol, or vitamin A in our gut.
6) Good source of vitamin C, copper and B vitamins. 100 g of pumpkin supplies us with 15% of the RDA of vitamin C and 14% of the RDA of copper. Both nutrients are essential for delaying aging signs such as wrinkles, saggy skin, gray hair and discolored iris. Both boast outstanding antioxidant activity within the human body. Copper, for instance, makes up a superoxide dismutase enzyme which acts as a powerful natural antioxidant defense system.
One serving of delicious baked pumpkin or pumpkin soup is full of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, beta-carotene, fiber and small amounts of other essential nutrients. With no cholesterol, no unhealthy saturated fatty acids and a high water content, pumpkin is a great food for people struggling to keep their weight, blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control.