Pumpkin extract and vegetable health benefit
June 1 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

A member of the gourd family, and therefore related to various melons and squashes, the pumpkin has long been cultivated in North America. When the Europeans landed here in the 15th century, they found the Indians growing and eating them. The newcomers enthusiastically embraced this vegetable fruit, and pumpkin pie soon became an integral part of Thanksgiving. You may consider signing up to a free health newsletter sent by email once or twice a month. I will discuss new pumpkin research on its health benefits. See complementary newsletter.

Nutritional Content of Pumpkin vegetable
Pumpkin is a good source of carotenoids such as beta carotene, fiber, which aids in digestion and helps lower cholesterol; and potassium, which helps keep blood pressure in check. One cup of mashed pumpkin has 50 calories, almost 3 grams of fiber, 2 gram of protein, 500 milligrams of potassium, high amount of Vitamin-A, and is low in fat. For information on pumpkin seeds.

Carotenoids are well known for their nutritional properties and health promoting effects representing attractive ingredients to develop innovative functional foods, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical preparations. Pumpkin flesh has an intense yellow/orange color owing to the high level of carotenoids, mainly α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Pumpkin extract and blood sugar
Pumpkin extract has insulin-like effects that could help people with diabetes keep their blood sugar under control.
Chinese researchers found that animals with drug-induced diabetes treated with pumpkin extract had lower blood glucose levels, greater insulin secretion, and more insulin-producing beta cells than diabetic rats that weren't given the extract. Pumpkin is frequently used to treat diabetes and high blood glucose in Asia. Researchers fed an extract of pumpkin fruit to diabetic and non-diabetic rats. While rats with diabetes had 40 percent less insulin in their blood than normal rats, giving them pumpkin extract for 30 days boosted levels of insulin by 36 percent. And after 30 days of being fed pumpkin extract, diabetic rats had blood glucose levels similar to those of non-diabetic rats. The extract also reduced the amount of oxidative cell damage, suggesting that the pumpkin's antioxidant effects may be responsible for its pancreas-preserving effects. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2007.

Lipids
Int J Biol Macromol. 2014. Hypolipidemic effect of the polysaccharides extracted from pumpkin by cellulase-assisted method on mice. The fruit of pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) is one of the most important vegetables in the world. This study was conducted to investigate the hypolipidemic effect of the polysaccharide isolated from pumpkin (PP). Male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into three groups and treated with diets containing either high fat, PP, or normal fat. Oral administration of PP could significantly decrease the levels of plasma triacylglycerol (TG), total cholesterol (TC), and plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increase the levels of fecal fat, cholesterol, and plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Therefore, results suggest that PP had a high hypolipidemic activity and could be explored as a possible agent for hyperlipidemia.

Choosing a Pumpkin
Select a pumpkin with tough skin. To test, apply gentle pressure with your fingernail. If you can make a mark, the pumpkin isn't ready for cooking. Your best choice will be brightly colored, blemish-free, and heavy for its size. Also, the smaller the pumpkin, the tastier and more succulent the flesh will be. Look for varieties specifically grown for eating, such as the sugar pumpkin.

Storing a Pumpkin
Whole pumpkins can be stored at room temperature for up to a month, or in the refrigerator for up to three months.

How to eat them: In general, pumpkin can be substituted for winter squash in just about any recipe -- and vice versa.

Eating a Pumpkin
When you need fresh, raw, cubed pumpkin: Cut straight down to one side of the stem with a large, heavy knife. With a large spoon, clean out the seeds and pulp. Place the pumpkin half, cut side down, on a cutting board, and remove the peel in small sections, slicing with the knife in a downward motion. Cut the peeled pumpkin into wedges, then into cubes.
   When you need cooked pumpkin: Cut it in half vertically and remove the seeds and pulp. Place it, cut side down, in a large shallow baking dish. Add 1/2 inch of water, then bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the pumpkin is crisp-tender when pierced. Let it cool, then cut each half into wedges and peel. When cooked, a 4-pound pumpkin will yield about 4-1/2 cups cubed or 4 cups mashed.
   When you need pumpkin puree: Place the whole pumpkin, uncut, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes or until tender, occasionally turning the sheet. After the pumpkin has cooled, peel it. Then, remove the seeds and pulp with a large spoon, and process the flesh in a food processor or by hand, with a potato masher, until smooth.