- Pumpkin is one of the very low calorie vegetables. 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
- Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
- At 7384 mg per 100 g, Pumpkin is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of Vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucusa. 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.
- It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as a, ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
- Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it may offer protection from "age-related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly.
- The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
- It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
- Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health.
- In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol.
- Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.
Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protect against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
Pumpkin Nutrition Facts
(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, no salt)
Protein 2 grams
Carbohydrate 12 grams
Dietary Fiber 3 grams
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg
Potassium 564 mg
Zinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg
Folate 21 mcg
Vitamin A 2650 IU
Vitamin E 3 mg
When you shop for a pumpkin, buy completely developed, whole pumpkin fruit instead of offerings of its cut sections. Look for mature fruit that features fine woody note on tapping, one that is heavy for its size and sports a stout stem. Avoid the one with a wrinkled surface, cuts and bruises.
Once at home, ripe, mature pumpkin may be stored for many weeks to come under cool, well-ventilated place at room temperature. However, cut sections should be placed inside the refrigerator where it can keep well for a few days.
When you go to cook your pumpkin keep in mind that some hybrid varieties are almost always subjected to insecticide powder or spray. Therefore, wash them thoroughly in running water in order to remove dirt, soil and any residual insecticides/fungicides. Of course, you know that I recommend you grow your own or at least purchase organic, but regardless of where you get your pumpkin it is a good idea to wash it before you cut it!
Cut the stem end and slice the whole fruit into two equal halves. Remove central net like structure and set it aside, you can use the seeds later. Then cut the flesh into desired sizes. In general, small cubes are preferred in cooking preparations.
Almost all the parts of the pumpkin plant; fruit, leaves, flowers and seeds, are edible:
- Pumpkin can be used in variety of delicious recipes either baked, stew- fried; however, it is eaten best after steam-cooking in order to get maximum nutrients.
- In China, young tender, pumpkin leaves consumed as cooked greens or in soups.
- In the Indian subcontinent where it is popular as "kaddu or sitaphal", pumpkin is used in the preparation of "sabzee", sweet dishes (halwa), desserts, soups, curries, etc.
- The fruit is used in the preparations of pies, pancakes, custard, ravioli...etc in Europe and USA.
- Golden nugget pumpkins are used to make wonderful soufflés, stuffing, soups...etc.
- Roasted Pumpkin seeds (Pepita) can be eaten as snacks.
Pumpkin is substantially rich in potassium. This phytonutrient is necessary for heart muscle and nerve impulse function. Potassium also promotes fluid balance in the body by offsetting the excess and harmful effect of sodium we get from the food we eat.
Aside from potassium, it is also an excellent source of minerals like copper (14% of the daily-recommended allowance), iron (10% DRA), and phosphorus (5% DRA). Copper is essential in iron metabolism as well as in the production of hemoglobin. Ten percent RDA of iron is involved in the transport of oxygen from lungs to the different parts of the body. Phosphorus is likewise needed in energy metabolism as well as in strengthening bones and teeth.
The numerous vitamins present in pumpkin have also contributed to the value of pumpkin as one of the healthiest vegetables. The vitamin B complex is essential for the metabolism of energy. It consists of 4% DRI of Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2) 8.5% DRA, 4% DRA of Niacin (B3), 6% DRA of Pantothenic acid (B5), 5% DRA of Pyridoxine (B6), and Folates (B9) at 4% DRA. Foods high with Riboflavin or vitamin B2, like pumpkin, help us to obtain and maintain normal and healthy vision and skin. It likewise assists in the build-up of body tissues. Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 is important for synthesis and metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, and protein,
All in all, pumpkin is amazing! We should all eat more of it and in fact, studies show that we are eating more. Over the last 3 years pumpkin has become a go-to staple by many people, especially when feeding children, because of its delicious taste and excellent nutritional value.