Why Pumpkin is Useful: 8 Properties Proven By Science

Pumpkins are a large family of plants. They can be annuals and perennials, giant or tiny, edible or technical, and used to make dishes. The vegetable, pumpkin, belongs to Cucurbita pepo (typical pumpkin). It also includes zucchini and squash. Butternut squash is a different species, Cucurbita moschata.

What you need to know about pumpkin

Edible pumpkin varieties have spread worldwide from America, where they were grown in prehistoric times. In Eurasia, only technical varieties were used, from which bottles and flasks were made.

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Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. This holiday commemorates an episode in early American history in which the pumpkin played a key role. In November 1620, the British Puritans’ first ship landed on New England’s coast. 

The settlers, whose descendants became the core of the American nation, could hardly have survived if the Native Americans had not shared the secrets of farming with them. Having successfully survived the first year, the colonists arranged a holiday to which the Indians were invited as a token of gratitude. The main dish on the table was pumpkin pudding. 

Pumpkins appeared in Europe and Russia in the 16th century. Quite quickly, the vegetable gained popularity, and by the 18th century, it had become one of the most popular crops.

Today pumpkin grows all over the world. Breeders have bred hundreds of varieties very different in appearance, taste and nutritional content.

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According to Yulia Zhilina, pumpkin retains the most valuable substances during baking. Also, some varieties, primarily butternut squash, can be eaten raw, for example, as part of a salad.

Types of pumpkin

There are three major classes of agricultural pumpkins, each of which is divided into dozens of varieties.

Butternut squash

Muscat pumpkin is considered the most useful. Its pulp is juicy and sweet (about 10% sugar). A vegetable can be either round and green (for example, the varieties “Vitaminnaya” and “Bylinka”) or similar to a zucchini (“Miracle-Yudo”). But most often in stores, there is an orange nutmeg pumpkin in the form of a bottle or a pear (“butternut”, “New”). Butternut squash grows in a warm climate.

Large-fruited pumpkins

The most extensive class of pumpkins. They can be very sweet and contain up to 15% sugar. At the same time, plants are much less capricious; they can be grown in central Russia. Despite the name, not all varieties reach large sizes. Most varieties of large-fruited pumpkins are orange and round (“Rossiyanka”, “Konfetka”). There are also varieties with greenish-grey skin (“Altair”, “Valok”).

Hard-skinned pumpkins

This type is named because of its thick and tough rind. The pulp of the fruits of such varieties is the least juicy and sweet, but it also absorbs the tastes of spices, oils and other ingredients. Therefore, can prepare exciting dishes from it. According to Yulia Zhilina, hard-skinned pumpkins contain the most dietary fibre. In addition, they have the most delicious seeds.

Most often, the hard-skinned pumpkin is yellow-green and oblong, reminiscent of a zucchini, only more rounded (“Khutoryanka”, “Gribovskaya”), but there are also round orange varieties (“Altai”, “Almond”). Botanically speaking, squash is also a hard-skinned gourd. In English, both vegetables are called squash, and nutmeg and large-fruited pumpkins are called pumpkins.

Nutritional value and calorie content of pumpkin

“Pumpkin can be called a healthy food product without reservation,” says Yulia Zhilina. – Its beneficial properties are due to the high fibre content that slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and protein. It has almost no fat and starch.

Nutrient content per 100 g :

Calorie pumpkin – 20-40 kcal

Carbohydrates – 5-20 g

Protein – 1 g

Fibre – 3.5 g

The content of trace elements and vitamins in 100 g in% of the recommended daily dose:

vitamin A – 225%;

C – 25%;

E – 7%;

B 1 – 5%;

B 3 – 5%;

B6 – 7 %;

B 9 – 5%;

magnesium – 7%;

potassium – 8%;

manganese – 9%.

The benefits of pumpkin

Pumpkin is rich in vitamins. This vegetable is one of the champions in the content of vitamin A and its precursor, carotene. Pumpkin also contains a lot of vitamin C; almost all B vitamins are present. All this makes it a good product for the skin, eyes and cardiovascular system. Some research suggests that pumpkins may be beneficial for diabetes.

1. Rich in Vitamins and Antioxidants

The Indian pumpkin saved the first American settlers not only from starvation but also from scurvy associated with a lack of vitamin C and from eye diseases that vitamin A deficiency can cause.

Vitamin A is essential for normal vision and skin health. In addition, it is necessary for pregnant and lactating women. Carotene, the primary plant source of vitamin A, into which it is converted when ingested, is named after the carrot. However, in a pumpkin, it is about five times more.

Many systems need vitamin C in our bodies. It strengthens the immune system, protects the skin from solar radiation, is suitable for the heart and blood vessels, and helps to absorb iron.

In addition, both vitamins are potent antioxidants that protect our bodies from premature ageing.

2. Normalizes the work of the heart

The fibre, potassium and vitamin C found in pumpkin support cardiovascular health.

It is essential to control sodium levels to care for the heart and blood vessels. This mineral, which we get mainly from salt, increases blood pressure. However, a large 2017 study showed that it is equally important to consume enough potassium, which, on the contrary, reduces blood pressure. Pumpkin is an affordable product with a high content of this mineral.

3. Protects eyesight

A 2019 experiment by scientists at the US National Eye Disease Institute found that a cocktail of vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotene in pumpkin supports eye health and significantly reduces the risk of macular degeneration. This age-related disease can lead to severe deterioration or loss of vision.

Pumpkin contains lutein and its isomer zeaxanthin, which also protects the eyes from ultraviolet rays and degenerative diseases. For these substances to be better absorbed from the pumpkin, they should be eaten with vegetable fats, for example, seasoned with olive oil.

4. Improves skin condition

The beneficial substances contained in pumpkins protect the skin. Beta-carotene is sometimes referred to as a natural sunscreen because its molecules absorb UV light and reduce tissue damage. Vitamin C produces collagen, which makes our skin supple, elastic and robust.

5. May Help Manage Diabetes Sugar

A 2019 study by a group of Chinese physicians found that a mixture of herbal extracts — pumpkin polysaccharides and Pueraria root extract — lowered blood sugar levels in mice. The study did not involve humans, but it did show the potential of these substances in reducing the burden of disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

6. Useful during pregnancy

“Dishes from pumpkin can be safely recommended to pregnant women,” Yulia Zhilina comments. – It contains many folic acids, which help the body perform many functions. This is the function of hematopoiesis, and DNA protection, which is especially important at the stage of pregnancy planning, and the prevention of thrombosis. Folic acid also ensures the normal intrauterine development of the fetus.

7. Strengthens the immune system

The pulp and seeds of pumpkin are rich in nutrients that enhance the body’s protective functions. First of all, it is beta-carotene. After being converted into vitamin A, it creates white blood cells that fight various infections, viruses and bacteria. In addition, this vitamin may improve the antibody response to some vaccines. 

The production of white blood cells, which strengthen the immune system and speed up recovery, is also stimulated by ascorbic acid. 

Zinc contained in pumpkin seeds is a natural immunomodulator. With its shortage, the production of leukocytes slows down and the body’s susceptibility to infections increases. Other beneficial substances with an immunostimulating effect that pumpkin is rich in include vitamin E, iron and folic acid.

8. Helps control weight

Pumpkin is ideal for those who are watching their weight. Despite its high nutritional value, it is low in calories. Pumpkin fruits are 90% water, so 100 g of the vegetable contains only 22 kcal. In addition, pumpkin is a source of fibre, which makes you feel full and reduces the amount of food you eat. In addition, its fruits contain carnitine, a substance that accelerates the breakdown of fats and increases the body’s endurance. 

Therefore, pumpkin dishes form the basis of many diets. The most important thing is to prepare them correctly. For example, a pumpkin latte or pumpkin pie will do less good than fresh pumpkin juice or baked pumpkin. To make the taste more interesting, add cinnamon, a little nutmeg, almonds and honey instead of sugar.

How to cook pumpkin?

There are many ways to cook pumpkin. Soups and desserts are made from it; the juice is squeezed out, baked, fried, stewed, and added to salads. Pumpkins of some lovely and juicy varieties can be eaten raw. 

Industrial varieties are used to make dishes, such as bottles and flasks, and interior decorations. Pumpkin seeds are also used in food, which is eaten raw, fried or squeezed out of them for oil.

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