Just by looking at its round shape and colour, you might not know how nutritious a pumpkin is. Experts recommend eating pumpkin often as it is medicinal, among other things.
Dieudonne Bukaba, a nutrition expert in Kigali, says that pumpkin is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very precious source of dietary fibre, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese.
He explains that the potassium contained in pumpkins can have a positive effect on blood pressure. The antioxidants in pumpkins could help prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.
Private Kamanzi, a dietician at Amazon Wellness Centre in Remera, Gasabo District, says that pumpkins are considered a vegetable; they protect the body against diseases. The orange colour indicates that they contain Vitamin A which helps in improving the vision. The bright orange colour of pumpkin comes from its rich supply of beta-carotene, which the body changes to Vitamin A.
He notes that pumpkins contain high antioxidant content; this may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Pumpkins contain Vitamin C which protects one from developing different types of cancer, especially breast cancer. Vitamin C also fights against muscle degeneration.
“Consuming pumpkins often helps in fighting body weight. Pumpkins satisfy easily, yet they don’t increase calories. When we prescribe a weight loss plan, among the foods we recommend in your diet, pumpkin is one of them,” Kamanzi says.
He also says that pumpkins are rich in potassium; this regulates the amount of fluid in the body. When fluid is circulating in the membrane, it needs the balance of chloride, potassium and sodium. For food to be circulated well, there might be an equilibrium between sodium and potassium.
Studies suggest that consuming enough potassium may be almost as important as decreasing sodium intake for the treatment of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Decreasing sodium intake involves eating meals that contain little or no salt. Increased potassium intake is also linked with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, and preservation of bone mineral density.
Kamanzi explains that pumpkin seeds have Omega 3 and 6, which refresh and build the mental capacity of the brain. Issues like stress, high blood pressure can be treated when you consume pumpkin seeds or their powder.
He stresses that Omega 3 repairs the joints; helps fight insomnia (a disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep or hard to stay asleep). Omega seeds are also rich in zinc, this helps in fighting prostate cancer. It is documented that African men from 45 years and above have a higher chance of developing prostate cancer. It can also help women fight breast cancer.
Kamanzi further says that when women are undergoing menopause, they develop complications like sweating, losing weight, and much more. If you want to manage such complications, consume pumpkin seeds. You can eat them or grind them as powder. Mix that power in any kind of food or drink, their values will still work.
Pumpkin seeds or powder boosts the immune system. Women who lose a lot of blood during menstruation and end up developing anaemia and other complications can consume the pumpkin seeds powder to avoid serious blood loss, he notes.
Kamanzi also says that you can get skin-health benefits from using pumpkin as a facial mask; it is a gentle exfoliator (removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin) and smoothens the skin.
However, Bukaba warns against consuming canned pumpkin pie mix, as it typically contains added sugars and syrups. Uncut pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two months. Pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin can be used as a replacement for butter or oil in baking recipes.