The pumpkin is the oldest plant in Central America. It comes from Mexico, where it was cultivated for 5000 years B.C. Archaeologists say the pumpkin was cultivated in Peru before maize was even introduced. American Indians used pumpkin as a food and its hard ripe parts were used to make kitchenware. Today, of course, people no longer make cookware out of pumpkins, but they continue to use this healthy product in their diet.
Pumpkin – Nutrition facts
Pumpkin has low energy value and a small amount of protein and fat. Not a big amount of carbs and small sugar content, almost no fibre. What is important to note is that pumpkin has a very high glycemic index which means that it will cause a higher blood sugar spike. It also contains a good amount of vitamin A, small potassium and medium copper.
Pumpkin – Good news
Let’s find out why you should include more of this nutritious and versatile type of winter squash in your diet.
1Promotes heart health
Pumpkin contains many nutrients that can improve your heart health. It contains potassium, vitamin C and fibre, which are beneficial for the heart.
For example, studies have shown that people with higher potassium intake have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of strokes, two risk factors for heart disease.
2Lowers risk of cancer
Human studies have shown that people with a higher intake of carotenoids have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
Furthermore, carotenoid consumption also reduced the risk of gastric cancer. However, scientists are unsure whether carotenoids themselves or other factors – such as the lifestyle of those who consume carotenoid-rich diets – are responsible for reducing the risk.
3Improves eye health
Along with vitamin A, pumpkin contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are protective against age-related macular degeneration. According to a study published in February 2017 in Nutrients. Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness among older people.
4Gut and systemic immunity
The gut immune system is uniquely well-equipped to respond to dietary-derived factors and micronutrients and in some cases relies on these food signals for its functioning. Nutritional deficiencies highlight the importance of micronutrients in the regulation of mucosal immunity. One dietary micronutrient that has emerged as a critical mediator of the mucosal immune response is vitamin A, which the pumpkin contains.
Pumpkin contains antioxidants such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. They neutralise free radicals, preventing them from damaging cells. Free radicals in turn create a condition in the body called oxidative stress, which is linked to chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
6May support healthy skin
Pumpkin contains nutrients that play an important role in the health of our skin, these include vitamins C and E.
Vitamin C is not produced by the body naturally, so we must get it from food, as it is involved in the formation of collagen, which makes the skin firm and elastic. Vitamin C also helps prevent bruising and promotes wound healing. Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and, together with vitamin C, helps protect the skin from sun damage and dryness.
Pumpkin – Are there any side effects?
Pumpkin is a natural product. There are no noticeable side effects caused by eating pumpkins. But we will still provide you with some information to be cautious about.
While rare, an allergy to pumpkin is possible, especially if you have a history of allergy to other winter squash such as butternut squash. If you have any suspicious symptoms, such as itchy eyes, skin rashes or other possible allergic symptoms after cooking or eating pumpkin, be sure to visit your doctor for testing and treatment.
A study published in September 2021 in Nutrition investigated the possibility of allergic reactions to pumpkin seeds and noted a case where a two-year-old child developed anaphylaxis after eating pumpkin seeds. The same patient was not allergic to pumpkin pulp. Once again, it is important to visit the doctor if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction to the pumpkin pulp, seeds, or rinds.
Fun & curious facts about pumpkin
Pumpkin in the Blue Zones
Pumpkin is particularly loved in Sardinia. One of the first dishes discovered by Dan Buettner, explorer of the Blue Zones, in Sardinia, was sweet pumpkin fritters.
Also, the pumpkin is a favourite product of the long-livers of Loma Linda, USA. In their recipe, they use acorn pumpkin and stuff it with quinoa, onions, celery, dried berries, nuts, dried apricots, and sage.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, is another Blue Zone region that enjoys pumpkin in its diet. Long-livers there make a pumpkin puree soup with beans.
Let’s sum pumpkin up
Pumpkin is a superfood that will protect you from cancer, make your heart stronger, provide you with sharp vision, fill your body with antioxidants and make your skin healthier. Pumpkin has almost no side effects and is very popular among the long-livers in the Blue Zones.
Not enough? Here is more
Lacey Baier is an expert on clean eating and intermittent fasting. In this video, she explains why you should eat pumpkin and what positive effects it brings to the body.
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