Did you know that the orange colour of a ripe pumpkin is a result of the high concentration of beta carotene, a vitamin A precursor? This main safe dietary source of vitamin A is indispensable when it comes to vision, normal growth, development and functioning of the immune system.
When it comes to pumpkins, benefits cannot be exhausted, says Jean Marie Habanabakize, a nutritional therapist at Foods for Health, a nutritional clinic in Kimisagara.
Habanabakize says pumpkins can reduce the risks of cancerous infections due to their vitamin concentration.
“The Beta-carotene present in the pumpkins has antioxidant properties responsible for neutralising free radicals, which would react with oxygen molecules, a potentially damaging incidence to lipids in cell membranes and genetic material.”
“In absence of such antioxidants, oxidation happens and resultant products are likely to trigger the development of cardiovascular diseases and cancer,” Habanabakize adds.
Without necessarily dwelling on shape and variety, most parts of the pumpkin plant are edible and their nutritional composition reveals amazing results.
Basing on nutritional facts per 100gm of a 2000 calories daily diet, raw pumpkins are saturated with 0.1 grammes of total fat, 1 miligrammes of sodium, 340mg of potassium, 6 grammes of carbohydrates and 0.5 grammes of dietary fibre.
Pumpkin flesh also contains 2.8g of sugar, Vitamin A which accounts for 170 percent of its composition, 15 per cent of Vitamin C, with the rest being minerals such as calcium, iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and magnesium.
Preparing and consuming pumpkins
Although nutritionists and doctors usually advise consuming pumpkins in the steamed form purposely for nutrient retention, a variety of recipes can be drawn from the pumpkins.
And of recent, a variety of baked, roasted or fried dishes have been developed to maximise the consumption of pumpkins and preparation only depends on the recipe or type of end product desired.
“With simple ingredients like maple syrup, oat flour, vanilla, baking soda, apple sauce, cinnamon, one can make pumpkin spice cookie in just forty five minutes of preparation and baking,” says Dr Mark Hydes, director of Cleveland Clinic Centre for Functional Medicine in the US.
While baking this, Hyde warns people not to use aluminum containing baking powder because aluminum itself may pose potential risks to health as a neurotoxin.
For Solange Nyirabihogo, a resident of Kanombe, scooping out the seeds and drying them in the sun is her first step on any raw pumpkin.
Nyirabihogo dries and roasts the seeds, thereafter pound them for use in sauces as treats.
Medical benefits of pumpkins
Pumpkin seeds are now common for medicinal reasons because of their concentration. Seed oil extract from pumpkins is used in the treatment of heart diseases and cancerous effects because it is deficient in cholesterol.
Studies on pumpkins published in the International Journal of nutrition and food science indicate that pumpkin seeds have 4.55 per cent composition of zinc only coming next to the leaves with the highest concentration of 5.81 per cent zinc.
For nutritious reasons, the leaves are also consumed just like ordinary vegetables, says Stella Kaitesi, a chef at Chilies Restaurant in Remera.
Kaitesi says: “I pick only young and fresh leaves because the older they grow, the harder the fibre becomes (to mash).”
She peels off the rough texture then steams them along just like the other leafy vegetables.
Although people have fallen out with its offensive flavour, nutritionally its far beneficial than most juices. All that is required is a blender to express juice out of the pumpkin flesh.
Pumpkin juice is known to relieve ulcers and high acidity if drunk at least three times a day, half an hour before meals. It is also useful in cases of insomnia because of its sedative properties.
For constipations and colitis, the pumpkin is boiled. This way, 500 grammes of boiled core is grinded and added to the remaining boiled water and the mixture is homogenised. This brew is consumed in two portions daily.