Pumpkin is incredibly rich in vital anti-oxidants and vitamins. This humble backyard vegetable is very low in calories yet good source of vitamin A, flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants like lutein, xanthines and carotenes.
The plant is a “vine”, creeps on the surface in a similar fashion like that of other members of the cucurbitaceae family such as cucumber, squash, cantaloupes…etc. It is one of the most popular vegetable that is grown as commercial field crop all over the world.
Pumpkins vary greatly in shape, size and colors. Giant pumpkins generally weigh 4–6 kg with the largest capable of reaching a weight of over 25 kg. Golden nugget pumpkins are flat, smaller in size and have sweet creamy orange color flesh.
Although pumpkins, in general, feature orange or yellow color, some fruits are dark to pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray. Rind is smooth and usually lightly ribbed. Color of pumpkins is due to yellow-orange pigments in their skin and pulp.
In structure, the pulp feature golden-yellow to orange color depending up on the poly-phenolic pigments in it. The fruit has hollow center, with numerous small, off-white colored seeds interspersed in the net like structure. Pumpkin seeds are great source of protein, minerals, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Health benefits of Pumpkin
It is one of the vegetables which is very low calories; provides just 26 cal per 100 g and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; but is rich a source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. Recommended by dieticians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
Pumpkin is a storehouse of many antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetable in the cucurbitaceae family with highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural antioxidant and is required by body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for vision. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A helps body protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α and ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
Zeaxanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it helps protect from “age related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.
Rich in 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 are good source of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids which are good for heart health. In addition, they are very good in protein, minerals and many health benefiting vitamins. For example 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 cal, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc… but no cholesterol. The seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.