Whenever pumpkin leaves, or leaf is mentioned among many Nigerians, what comes to mind, especially to the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria is Ugu, otherwise known as fluted pumpkin leaves. If you however make mention of same name to a non Nigerian, such a one would definitely think of Cucurbita pepo.
The interesting fact you wouldn’t want to miss out on is that both species grow in, and has been extensively used in Nigeria. Both are very edible, can be used in making various foods, including soups.
Fluted pumpkin is believed to have the potentials to boost blood production. Because of this, in many local settings, the easiest way people go about boosting their blood is to squeeze out the juice of a good enough quantity of freshly plucked pumpkin leaves. The juice is either taken raw, or with liquid tin milk.
Differences between pumpkin and fluted pumpkin leaves.
Although most people interchange pumpkin leave for fluted pumpkin leaves, it is important you understand the differences between the two. One thing is that both do not look alike. For instance, pumpkin or squash leaves are broad and light greenish in color, while fluted pumpkin leaves are usually three fingered and less broad.
Fluted pumpkin leaves are deep greenish in color. Another important difference to note about the two vegetable leaves is that pumpkin leaves forms mucilage when cooked, just like okra. Fluted pumpkin leaves on the other hand, do not form such mucilage.
How to eat pumpkin
Both vegetables are edible. You can use both leaves to make soup or prepare yam. Fluted pumpkin leaves can be squeezed and the juice taken to boost blood production.
Why you should eat both pumpkin leaves
There are several reasons why you should make pumpkin and fluted pumpkin leaves part of your daily vegetable consumption. To start with, these leaves are sweet to taste when properly prepared. Secondly, they do not take much time to make a vegetable soup or salad with. But beyond these, there are also different nutritional facts you may like to consider before consuming both leaves. Some of these nutritional benefits will be listed here.
Adquate supply of vitamins and minerals
Fluted pumpkin leaves have high vitamins C, K, B6, and A. The leaf is also a high source of iron mineral, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and sodium.
Do you want to talk about the pumpkin leaves? Unlike Telfairia occidentalis (fluted pumpkin) leaves, Cucurbita maxima (pumpkin) leaves are major supplies of vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12. It also contain vitamins C, and D
Good supplies of proteins
Both leaves are good sources of essential and non essential amino acids. Your body truly needs those amino acids to assemble the and facilitate production of required proteins to maintain body functions. Without protein I the body, you may develop a deficiency disease know as kwashiorkor.
Low in calories
One problem with foods that are high in caloric content is the predisposition to diabetes and obesity on those who consume them. So vegetables are perfect foods to eat when trying to maintain shape and weight. You may also eat lots of fruits such as Rambutan fruits, and the poplar Yuzu fruits. You may also consider drinking plant based milks, unlike the dairy milk with contains not only high calories but also high cholesterol content. One of the best plant based milk is Kunu aya. Another equaly important plant based milk is Taro milk tea.
Benefits of eating pumpkin leaves
The nutritional benefits of pumpkin leaves, including that of fluted pumpkin cannot be over emphasised. They are quit rich in bioactive organic compounds that exert different health roles on your body. Some of these health benefits of pumpkin leaves shall be discussed below.
You’re already aware that pumpkin leaf is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Eating either of the pumpkin leaf or drinking their juices can greatly improve you vision, and prevent the onset of cataract, or glaucoma.
Aside being a rich source of vitamin A, pumpkins contain huge amount of vitamin C. They also possess good amount of strong antioxidants. These antioxidants are responsible for protecting your eyes from harmful effects of oxidative stress and free radicals.
Pumpkin leaves can boost blood production
Among the Igbo people of Nigeria, and some other tribes, fluted pumpkin leaves are usually washed, squeeze or blended and the juice taken raw of with condensed liquid milk. Also, pumpkin leaves are used extensively in preparing vegetable yam porridge of different styles.
Both leaves contain Iron mineral. The iron present may be responsible for the boosting effects these vegetables have on your blood production.
Fluted pumpkin leaf juice may prevent anemia
Aside helping in boosting blood production, iron also plays a vital role in the oxygenation of the blood. These is through the production of hemoglobins and enough myoglobins. These biomolecules are responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to the brain and muscles cells. In fact, it is iron which binds to oxygen molecules in those biomolecules.
Pumpkin leaves may help pregnant women
Pregnant women will gain so much by consuming pumpkin leaves. These is because of the high vitamin B complexes present in the leave. Pumpkin leaf contains folate and other B vitamins, including vitamin B 12.
Folate is an essential molecule that’s required during the formation of the fetal brain cells. When folate is deficient in the mothers body, or foods, it may lead to brain cell deformations. This may also affect the child’s spinal cells formation.
Pregnant women will also enjoy the presence of antioxidants, and vitamins in pumpkin. They can help to suppress pregnancy induced hypertension.
Pumpkin leaves possess hypoglycemic effects
These vegetable plants are low in calories. This makes them a good candidate for vegans and those who want to watch their weights.
You should be aware that high calorie consumption often leads to obesity and other health complications. Thus like djeka leaves, you can also use pumpkin leaves to maintain steady glucose level balance.
Pumpkins may help fight cancer cells
Several studies have shown that pumpkin leaves possess anticancer properties. The seeds of fluted pumpkin is suggested to have antitumor growth effect on prostate cancer cell. The major anticancer components of pumpkin leaves is cucurbitacin E. According studies, cucurbitacin E prevents cancer cell growth through the inhibition of JAK2 and STAT3 phosphorylation. This is done by suppressing the expression of VEGF/ VEGFR2, Bcl-xl, and Cyclin D1.
Besides cucurbitacin E, both pumpkin and fluted pumpkin leaves possess strong antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E. These compounds also exact anticancer properties through the prevention of oxidative stress. If you still remember, oxidative stress is the major cause of autoimmune diseases.
May prevent diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is an increasing cause of death worldwide. It is a major health concern, especially among the adults. However, it can also affect children in a condition called juvenile diabetes.
There are two most important types of diabetes; they’re the type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, both types of diabetes are marked by increased blood sugar level. We’re however lucky to be blessed with natural remedies for prevention and treatment of these deadly disease. These natural remedies are the herbs around us.
Fluted pumpkin leaves possess strong antioxidants, which prevent the oxidative destruction of the pancreatic cells. This way, the onset of diabetes is prevented. But that’s not all, studies have also shown that pumpkins possess strong hypoglycemic activities. So, the vegetables are helpful for burning excess sugars in your body. You can also squeeze and drink the juice for quick response.
Pumpkin leaves for men’s fertility
A regular consumption of the fluted pumpkin juice will increase your chances of getting your partner pregnant. It is useful for healthy men, as much as for those that are treating infertility problems. According to a stud the leaves and seeds of fluted pumpkin are beneficial for your testicular health. The studies showed that there were testicular regeneration, improvement in sperm quality and testosterone concentration.
It is however, very important you don’t abuse the consumption of fluted pumpkin leaf juice. Doing so may be a direct invitation to harm on your sperm qualities. Just take a moderated volume.
Support your immunity
Fluted pumpkin leaves are well fortified with vitamin B complexes. It is also rich in vitamins A, C and E. These are good for boosting your immune system. When your immunity is strong, you’d be protected from several infective diseases.
Help support weight loss
When it comes to losing weight, a cup of fluted pumpkin leaves can just do justice to your body, if taken on a regular for a week or less. Those leaves are rich in bioactive compounds that facilitate quick digestion and utilization of nutrients. These process is beneficial for weight loss. Also, it is high in both digestible and indigestible fibers. These fibers help in maintaining the feeling of being full, and therefore not needing to eat snacks. Snacking is the surest way to become overweight and obese. I do hope you are aware of this.
Helps in hormone balancing
Pumpkin leaves may be very beneficial for balancing your hormone, and thus, improve your fertility ratio. A study has suggested that fluted pumpkin leaves contains several proteins which are beneficial for balancing your hormones, and tissue repair. This may also be the reason newly nursing mothers are encouraged to drink the leaf juice, as it aids breast milk production.
May help to prevent infections
Aside being helpful for nutritional benefits, pumpkin leaves also contain essential bioactive chemicals such as alkaloids and flavonoids. These compounds are helpful in the boosting of your immunity and in preventing infectious diseases. The rich source of vitamins and minerals are capable of supplying your body the necessary compounds to improve your health.
May improve brain function and cognition
Pumpkins are fortified with vitamin B complex. These vitamins are very important for improving your brain functions, and in generating energy for the brain. They’re also very important in the development of new born brain and spinal cells. This means that Ugu juice msy he beneficial as a supplement for treating dementia, and other cognitive dissonance.
Maybe very good for pregnant women
As I said above, the vitamins present in pumpkins, especially the folate, is very essential for the development of of your babies neural tubes. Studies have shown that folate play major roles in the brain development and functioning of your baby. A deficiency of folate can cause anencephaly and spina bafida.
Also beneficial for the pregnant woman is the blood boosting effect of Ugu Leaf juice, as well as that of pumpkin. Both leaves possess iron mineral, which is essential for blood production, and thus prevents the onset of pregnancy induced anemia.
May offer protection to your liver
Some study reviews have shown that pumpkin may offer protection to your liver. As a rich source of antioxidants, this may be true. As you know very well, oxidative stress is a major cause of several autoimmune diseases you may have heard of, such as diabetes.
So, by taking meals rich in pumpkin vegetable, you may be doing your liver a great service, by keeping it healthy and protected from free radicals.
Dong Y, Lu B, Zhang X, Zhang J, Lai L, Li D, et al. Cucurbitacin E, a tetracyclic triterpenes compound from Chinese medicine, inhibits tumor angiogenesis through VEGFR2-mediated Jak2– STAT3 signaling pathway. Carcinogenesis. 2010;31(12):2097-2104.
Batool M, Ranjha MMAN, Roobab U, Manzoor MF, Farooq U, Nadeem HR, Nadeem M, Kanwal R, AbdElgawad H, Al Jaouni SK, Selim S, Ibrahim SA. Nutritional Value, Phytochemical Potential, and Therapeutic Benefits of Pumpkin (Cucurbita sp.). Plants (Basel). 2022 May 24;11(11):1394. doi: 10.3390/plants11111394. PMID: 35684166; PMCID: PMC9182978.