In Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, pumpkin is a famous constituent of Saturday soup, and is also popular as an additive to rice and in several beverages.
Other than being ‘big and orange’, how much do you really know about pumpkin?
In this edition of Bet You Didn’t Know, Loop Lifestyle presents ten amazing health benefits a diet with pumpkin can add to your life.
1. Until recently, pumpkin seeds exploded into popularity in the United States after scientific research fingered the seeds as massive natural reserves of nutrition.
By themselves, pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of dietary fibre and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. Interestingly, the seeds were concluded to contain concentrated amounts of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins – packing a further punch for being an excellent source of the health-promoting amino acid, tryptophan.
One Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that those who ate a diet high in fibre had a 40 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate a diet low in fibre. A more recent study by Swedish researchers found that women who ate a diet high in fibre had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease compared with women who ate a low fibre diet.
2. Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene. As a precursor to Vitamin A, beta carotene has shown positive benefits in the fight against prostate cancer, according to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. In Japan, beta-carotene has also been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer.
3. Unlike other popular vegetables, pumpkin is rich in iron. For women of child-bearing age, consuming more pumpkin in healthy, daily quantities, appears to promote fertility, according Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publications.
4. The oil extracted from pumpkin seeds has been observed to be packed full of phytoestrogens, which research shows are beneficial for preventing hypertension. When researchers in a joint study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health (NLM-NIH) fed rats a diet supplement with the oil, they found that it helped lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in just 12 weeks.
5. Pumpkins are high in the antioxidant zeaxanthin. This substance acts as a natural barrier against the Sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays, as it filters from within the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it may offer protection from “age-related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.
6. Pumpkins are arguably nature’s powerhouses of Vitamin-A. Absorbed as beta-carotene and then converted, Vitamin-A is a powerful natural antioxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucosa. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A may help human body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
7. Pumpkin seeds have been proven to provide a fair daily dosage of the mineral zinc – which appears to play a role in men’s sexual health, including fertility, potency, and sex drive.
8. A practise thousands of years old, pumpkin seeds have traditionally been used for helping the body to rid itself of harmful gut parasites by Native Americans; even today, are used to treat tapeworms in some parts of Africa.
9. In Nepal and other sections of Southeast Asia, pumpkins are prized from their rich reserves of vitamin-C. On a daily basis, our body uses antioxidant vitamins to boost the immune system, warding off such unwelcome visitors. One of the most important antioxidants for this is vitamin-C.
10. An additional health benefit of the amino acid tryptophan found in pumpkin seeds, is its ability to improve one’s mood. Several medical experts have agreed that the amino acid is important in the production of serotonin in the brain, one of the major players when it comes to our mood. It is widely believed in parts of North America that a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds may help your outlook stay bright.
EXTRA FACT: Pumpkins are valued for their high water content, which when paired with its dietary fibre reserves found in the skin and seeds, leave persons feeling fuller for longer.
Now tell us what are YOU waiting for? Grab a handful of seeds, gulp down a bowl of soup or even make some awesome pumpkin juice and reap all these amazing health benefits.