Nothing tastes better in terms of traditional food like pumpkin cooked in beans. Pumpkin is a fruit of the plant of the same name and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family that also includes gourds.
It is quite similar to gourds in its appearance and is believed to have originated in North America. However, there is no fixed shape of pumpkins and they usually vary from being oblate to oblong.
The rind is smooth, lightly ribbed and usually, orange or yellow in colour. With a high nutritional value, pumpkins are associated with a lot of health benefits. Apart from the flesh, even the seeds of pumpkins boast of a large number of nutrition benefits. My mother always makes sure that her grand children have their fair share of pumpkin once every week.
The pumpkin can be one, but we can get three nutritious foods out of this one.
The pumpkin fruit
Pumpkin is very rich in carotenoids, which is known for keeping the immune system of an individual strong and healthy. Beta-carotene, found in pumpkin, is a powerful antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. It helps prevent build up of cholesterol on the arterial walls, thus reducing chances of strokes. Being rich in alpha-carotene, pumpkin is believed to slow the process of aging and also prevent cataract formation. Pumpkins have been known to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem than usually results in blindness.
The high amount of fibre, present in a pumpkin, is good for the bowel health of an individual. Being loaded with potassium, pumpkin is associated with lowering the risk of hypertension. The presence of zinc in pumpkins boosts the immune system and also improves the bone density.
Pumpkin seeds are a moderate to very good source of a variety of nutrients, including minerals, protein and healthy fats. A couple handfuls of the seeds provide more than half of your daily dose of manganese, nearly half of your daily dose of magnesium, and more than a quarter of your daily value of iron. They provide significant amounts of dietary copper and zinc and quality protein. They also provide a significant amount of fat. However, it is the good, polyunsaturated kind, and they are rich in Omega 3 and 6 fats which are believed to promote heart health and a good cholesterol profile.
Pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seed extracts are believed to have many health benefits. For instance, the phytosterols are thought to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, decrease cancer risks and strengthen the immune system.
Recent studies have looked into how adding pumpkin seeds to the diet may affect the health of men’s prostates. The seeds also contain L-Tryptophan, a chemical that’s thought to reduce stress and promote calm, and so the seeds have been used in studies of treating anxiety and other mood disorders.
Researchers are also studying whether pumpkin seed oil and extracts can help with pancreatic health and diabetes, and whether their possible anti-inflammatory properties would make them a tool in easing arthritis symptoms. Other possible health benefits that have been studied include the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and kidney stones with pumpkin seed oil
My favourite of all are the pumpkins leaves which I enjoy eating with ugali made out of maize flour. The pumpkin leaves are nutritious just like any other green vegetables like the kales and spinach. These leaves can be cooked to accompany any food. As long as one knows how to prepare them, then you are sure to enjoy your meal.
Be sure not to miss all these nutritional values by not bypassing the pumpkin in your nearest market. Include pumpkin in your menu to keep away from the doctor.