Pumpkin: benefits and harms

Photo by Gillian Lingard on Unsplash

Pumpkin is a plant with creeping stems, the fruits are usually orange, but there are other colors of the peel. It has a rich vitamin composition and low-calorie content; this plant often becomes an element of the diet. But even the most useful product can become dangerous if misused.

The history of the appearance of pumpkin in nutrition
According to some sources, it was actively cultivated already 5-8 thousand years ago. Pumpkin was brought to Europe from South America and quickly took an important place in cooking and even medicine. In the modern world, it is just a delicious vegetable, but the initial attitude to pumpkin was somewhat different: it was considered raw material for the manufacture of medicinal products. On the basis of this plant, ointments were prepared and used in traditional medicine as a remedy for helminths, and Avicenna was recommended for a laxative effect. Let’s figure out why this healing vegetable is so useful.

The benefits of pumpkin
Pumpkin is a storehouse of vitamins, and a considerable part of them is found not only in the pulp but also in seeds and flowers. Pumpkin has 4-5 times more carotenes than carrots. Carotenes in the body are converted into vitamin A, which is beneficial for eyesight and is also a powerful antioxidant. Pumpkin contains vitamins C, E, K, and almost all B vitamins.

The seeds contain many trace elements, and in terms of zinc content, pumpkin seeds are among the top three vegetables.

Due to its low-calorie content, pumpkin is considered an ideal dietary product, because it contains no starch, cholesterol, and trans fats, little sugar, but a lot of fiber useful for digestion. The calorie content of 100 g of pulp is only 22 kcal.

Composition and calorie content of pumpkin
Caloric content per 100 g 22 kcal
Proteins 1 g
Fat 0.1 g
Carbohydrates 4.4 g

Pumpkin harm
Even a useful product can be harmful, so it is worth considering possible contraindications. Who should be wary of introducing pumpkin into the diet:

Eating raw pumpkin is contraindicated for people with inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as for those who have stones in the gallbladder and kidneys since pumpkin has a choleretic effect and can provoke the movement of stones. Raw vegetables are more difficult to digest, so it is best not to give raw pumpkins to young children and the elderly. Diabetics should also avoid being addicted to pumpkins as this can cause blood sugar to rise.

Sometimes, frequent consumption of this vegetable can cause bloating and loosening of the stool, then you need to reduce the serving size and frequency of use. Excessive consumption of pumpkin can lead to false carotene jaundice – the carotene contained in the vegetable causes yellowing of the skin. Occasionally, individual intolerance and allergies occur, in this case, it is better to refuse the product.

It is also worth limiting the use of pumpkin seeds for those who follow a diet – you should remember about their high-calorie content: 100 grams contain 559 kcal.

The use of pumpkin in medicine
Pumpkin is often used in dietetics – there are completely pumpkin diets. This low-calorie vegetable normalizes metabolism and reduces appetite due to its high amount of fiber and dietary fiber. However, you should be careful to lose weight with a pumpkin.

Obesity is a serious medical condition. Self-medication often leads to poor results. Contact a specialist to find out all the nuances and choose a method of losing weight. Due to its beneficial properties, pumpkin is often found in various diets, but only as part of a possible complex diet that will ensure weight loss without depriving the body of all the elements it needs. The pumpkin is recommended to be consumed in the morning and preferably raw.

Pumpkin has a positive effect on the condition of the male reproductive system. The vegetable pulp contains a high concentration of vitamin E-tocopherol, which is translated from Greek as “bringing offspring”. The seeds contain a lot of zinc: 30 g meets up to 70% of the daily requirement. Also, pumpkin seeds are the record holders among products in terms of L-arginine content. Together, they have a noticeable effect on the entire body: they participate in the synthesis of testosterone, normalize the function of the prostate gland, improve the state of the cardiovascular system, and have a positive effect on erectile function.

The thin film-shell of pumpkin seed contains the amino acid cucurbitin, which has anthelmintic properties – this has been used in folk medicine. For example, a decoction of unrefined seeds was given to children and pregnant women due to the almost complete absence of side effects.

Masks from seed gruel, as well as compresses from pulp juice, are used in cosmetology to moisturize and brighten the skin, reduce inflammation. The oil extract accelerates the healing of epidermal injuries.

Pumpkin has a laxative, anti-inflammatory, and choleretic effect, so a small amount is useful for people with congestion and constipation.

The high potassium content in the pulp reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and strengthens the walls of blood vessels, which is extremely beneficial for people suffering from atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

The use of pumpkin in cooking
Pumpkin recipes exist in almost all cuisines in the world. This vegetable can be used to make soups, desserts, baby food puree, porridge; bake with other ingredients – your imagination is unlimited. In Italy, even flowers fried in the batter are used for food. Raw pumpkin is added to salads.

Pumpkin is remarkable in that it retains a considerable amount of useful substances even after heat treatment.

How to choose and store a pumpkin?
Before buying, you should pay attention to the appearance of the pumpkin: the peel should be intact, the stalk should not be cut off, and no signs of rotting. This will ensure long-term storage. The ideal place for a pumpkin would be a cellar or other cool and opaque place. In good conditions, a vegetable can lie for a couple of years, but it is better to consume it within a few months – over time, the amount of nutrients in the pumpkin decreases. Also, the fruits are perfectly stored frozen.

Choose medium-sized vegetables weighing about 5 kg – huge pumpkins usually have less sugar. Depending on the culinary idea, different varieties are chosen: for heat treatment – nutmeg and hard cork, and for consumption raw – sweet gray pumpkins.

How many pumpkins can you eat per day?
Despite the low-calorie content of the vegetable, it is best to limit yourself to 300-400 grams of pulp per day. An even stronger reduction in the amount of pumpkin in the diet should be followed by those who are concerned about gastrointestinal diseases, kidney and gall bladder stones, and diabetes.

How many pumpkin seeds can you eat per day?
Pumpkin seeds are very high in calories. Nutritionists do not recommend eating more than 30 grams per day.

At what age can you give a pumpkin to a child?
Pumpkins are a good option for first feeding. You can offer it to a baby at the age of 6-7 months. In the absence of an allergic reaction, the amount of pumpkin in the diet can be gradually increased.

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