Pumpkins in your diet are an important source of various vitamins, essential amino and fatty acids, micro nutrients as well as medicinal bio-active compounds. With its delicious yellow-orange colour, pumpkin is consumed in various forms across the world. In Mexico for instance, the seeds are used with honey to prepare desserts known as palanquentas.
Pumpkins seeds, fruit and leaves can all be consumed. Each part has its own unique health benefits. The seeds are laden with essential fatty acids and proteins, the fruit has abundant carotenoids while pumpkin leaves are full of flavonoids.
So how do pumpkins improve your health and what medicinal properties do they posses? Here is everything you need to know about pumpkins:
15 Medicinal and Health Benefits of Pumpkins
1. Has Antioxidant Activities
Your body experience oxidative stress when the amount of oxidants in the body exceeds the amount of antioxidants. But where do these oxidants come from? These oxidants are produced in abundance when you are exposed to everyday air pollutants.
Oxidative stress leads to various diseases and conditions such as cancer, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, neurological disorders as well as atherosclerosis. Therefore the importance of antioxidants in your diet cannot be underrated.(1)
Pumpkin extracts and seeds have been proven to have a high amount of Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant. Pumpkin polysaccharide has also been shown to increase glutathione activity which is an antioxidant found naturally in your body. (2)
2. Protects Against Various Forms of Cancer
Cancer has received a tremendous deal of research due to its fatal nature. Treatment options are also associated with extreme side effects as in the case of chemotherapy. As such natural food that can aid in preventing cancer are very important in your diet.(3)
Consumption of pumpkin seeds as well as boiled pumpkin juice has been linked to lower levels gastric, lung, breast and colorectal cancer. The carotenoids found in pumpkin fruits have also been shown to prevent prostrate cancer. (4)
3. Eases Inflammation
Inflammation causes a host of undesirable consequences, some of which are quite severe and others which are downright uncomfortable. A common flu for instance occurs when the mucous membranes are inflamed which causes them to release more fluid.
More server forms of inflammation are in cases such as arthritis. Arthritis occurs when many joints throughout the entire body are permanently inflamed.
Pumpkin has been used in many parts of the world as a traditional medicine. It has been used to reduce inflammation which eases arthritis. (5)
4. Source of Proteins
Proteins are body building blocks. They also serve functions such as providing immune protection, transmit nerve impulses as well as storing molecules such as oxygen.
Pumpkin seeds are an inexpensive source of essential amino acids. In fact pumpkin seeds contain almost all the essential amino acids that our bodies need.(6)
5. Gets Rid of Parasitic Intestinal Worms
Intestinal worms are common especially in developing countries. When left untreated they can perforate the intestinal walls and can as well cause death. Many African mothers have been using pumpkin seeds to get rid of these worms. Studies have also confirmed that pumpkin seeds are capable of evacuating parasitic intestinal worms (7).
6. Source of Essential Fatty Acids
Pumpkin seeds are a source of four main essential fatty acids. These include plamitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic acids. These fatty acids have been shown to promote wound healing and to prevent atherosclerotic heart disease (8).
7. Reduces the Appearance of Acne
Acne vulgaris occurs due to 3 main factors. First there is an increased production of sebum. This sebum is then “eaten” by the bacteria P. Acnes. This causes inflammation and a comedone appears.
Pumpkin seed oil as well as pumpkin seeds have been shown to have a high amount of vitamin E which prevents inflammation and in turn helps reduce the appearance of comedones (9).
8. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar
Researchers have isolated various bioactive compounds on the seeds and fruits of pumpkins that have been shown to have anti-diabetic effects. These compounds have been shown to improve glucose tolerance as well as decrease the blood glucose levels which can help regulate diabetes (10).
9. Fights Fungal and Bacterial Infections
Fungi, bacteria and viruses are the root cause of many diseases that have adverse effects and are one of the leading causes of death. As such natural remedies used to fight them have been researched and developed.
One of the most promising remedies is pumpkin seed oil. It has been proven to eliminate a range of bacteria and fungi including candida alibicans (11).
10. Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Heart Disease
Bad cholesterol (LDL) is known to raise the risk of heart disease. It is therefore important to reduce it from your body or eliminate it altogether from your diet.
Studies show that pumpkin seed reduces the levels of bad cholesterol from your body while at the same time exhibiting protective effects towards the liver (12).
11. Promotes Digestion
Dietary fiber present in the fruit as well as pumpkin seed plays an important role in aiding digestion. This fiber is resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine which in turn promotes digestion and prevents bloating (13).
12. Reduces the incidence of Bladder Stones
Bladder stone disease is characterized by the inability of the bladder to hold, store or eliminate urine. This can be caused by infection or damaged nerves.
Pumpkin seeds provide high phosphorus levels and can be used as a potential agent in lowering the risk of bladder-stone disease (14).
13. Pumpkin Seed Oil Promotes Hair Growth
Conditions associated with loss of hair such as alopecia can affect both men and women especially after puberty. Hair loss affects the personal appearance of people and as such is undesirable.
Common hair loss treatment options in the market include Finasteride and Minoxidil. These drugs, although effective can have adverse side effecets in men such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido as well as decreased ejaculate volume.
Pumpkin seed oil has been shown to effectively promote hair growth without any adverse side effects. Studies show that pumpkin seed oil contains beneficial nutrients that promote hair growth in both men and women (15).
14. Excellent Source of Essential Micro-elements
Micro elements play a key role in maintenance of tissue function.
A balanced diet most certainly provides all the essential elements your body needs. As such pumpkins in your diet is an excellent source of essential micro elements such as zinc, magnesium and copper (16).
15. Can also Help Reduce Stress
This comes as more of a did you know kind of fact. So did you know that pumpkins may ease depression? The seeds contain L-tryptophan, which raises levels of ‘happy’ serotonin in the brain (17)