Pumpkins are one of the most widely grown vegetables. It is highly rich in vitamins and vital antioxidants. Though the pumpkin has very low amounts of calories, it is very rich in Vitamin-A and has flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants such as xanthin, lutein and it also contains a high level of carotenes.
The pumpkin fruit is a vine that grows very fast and creeps along the ground surface similar to other vegetables and fruits in the Cucurbitaceae family such as cantaloupes, squash, and cucumber. It is one of the most popularly cultivated field crops all over the world, being farmed commercially for its seeds and fruit.
The fruits from a pumpkin come in varying sizes, shapes and colors. Giant pumpkin fruits typically weigh between 4 and 6 kilograms and the largest fruits can reach a weight of over 25 kilograms. Pumpkin fruits of the golden-nugget variety are smaller and flat. They are usually creamy and sweet and their flesh is orange.
What Kind of Pumpkins Can You Find in The Market?
Generally, pumpkins have yellow or orange exterior skin. However, it also comes in brown, white, gray, red and dark to pale green. Orange and yellow pigments largely influence the color characteristics of a pumpkin on the skin and pulp. The thick rind of a pumpkin is usually smooth with light and vertical ribs.
Inside, pumpkin fruits typically feature an orange to golden-yellow flesh. The color usually depends on the polyphenolic pigments in the fruit. A pumpkin fruit usually has a hollow center with many small seeds that have an off-white color. The seeds of a pumpkin fruit are a great source of minerals, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and proteins.
What Health Benefits Do Pumpkins Have?
The pumpkin contains very low calories. 100 grams of pumpkin fruit typically contains only 26 calories. The fruit also does not have cholesterol or saturated fats. However, it contains very high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibers. Dietitians usually recommend the pumpkin vegetable to individuals looking to control their cholesterol levels and those taking part in weight loss programs.
Pumpkins are also a rich source of antioxidant vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, and E.
The pumpkin is one of the vegetables and fruits in the Cucurbitaceae family that has the highest levels of Vitamin-a with 7,384 mg for every 100g. This means it provides about 246% RDA. Vitamin-A is a very critical natural antioxidant that is needed by the body for great skin and to maintain the integrity of the mucosa. Vitamin-A is also important in providing great eyesight. Results from research carried out also suggest that Vitamin-A plays an important role in protecting a person from contracting oral cavity cancers and lung cancer.
Pumpkins are also a great source of numerous natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, α, and ß-carotenes. The α, ß-carotenes convert into Vitamin-A once they are in the human body.
Zeaxanthin, which is found is pumpkin is a natural antioxidant that contains properties for filtering ultra-violet rays in the macula lutea found in the eye retinas. Zeaxanthin may, therefore, offer protection from (ARMD) ‘’age-related macular disease’’ which mostly affects older adults.
The pumpkin fruit also happens to be a great source of vitamins in the B-complex group such as vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), pantothenic acid, thiamin, folates, and niacin.
This fruit also contains an abundance of minerals such as calcium, potassium, copper and phosphorous.
Other Things to Know About Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of beneficial minerals. They contain mono-saturated fatty acids and dietary fiber which has been proven to have immense benefits for the heart. Additionally, these seeds have a very high concentration of minerals, proteins, and vitamins which have immense health benefits. For example, in 100 grams of pumpkin seeds, you will get 30 grams of proteins, 559 calories, 4987 milligrams of niacin which is equivalent to 31% RDA, 110% RDA of iron, 17% RDA of selenium, 71% RDA of zinc just to name a few. Pumpkin seeds have zero percent cholesterol levels. Additionally, these seeds are a great source of tryptophan. This is an amino acid that promotes the health of human beings.
How to Select and Store Pumpkins
Pumpkins are usually available all year round in the market. Instead of buying sections of the pumpkin fruit, you should buy it whole. When making a purchase, find a mature fruit that produces a fine woody note when tapped. The ideal fruit should also be heavy and have a stout stem. You should avoid buying a pumpkin that looks wrinkled or one that has bruises and cuts on the surface.
A mature pumpkin can be stored for a few weeks on getting home in a well-ventilated space. It should be stored at room temperature. Additionally, a pumpkin that has been cut into needs to be stored only for a few days in a refrigerator.
How to Prepare and Serve Pumpkins
Some hybrid varieties of pumpkins are usually sprayed with insecticides. You should therefore first wash the fruit thoroughly in a place with running water to get rid of soil, dirt and also to get rid of any residual fungicides and insecticides.
When cooking, you should cut the stem off and slice the fruit into halves. You should then remove the net-like structure on the inside and remove the seeds. You can then cut the flesh of the pumpkin into the desired sizes.
Many of us enjoy pumpkin via our local coffee shops pumpkin spice lattes at this time of year – the irony of which is that there is no pumpkin in the spice – I know right? This said, it tastes amazing and is made from a variety of healthy giving spices – so why not try making your own pumpkin spice?
Keep in mind that almost all parts of the pumpkin plant are edible. You can consume the leaves, flowers, seeds, and fruit.
Want to know more?
If you’re a man and you’re looking to optimize your health, gym and going to the doctor regularly are simply not going to cut it. That said, adding pumpkin and pumpkin seeds to your diet will help you stay on top of your nutrition too. Click here to find out why pumpkins really are a man’s best friend.