The health benefits of pumpkin include good source of essential nutrients for baby’s development, builds stronger immune system, kills intestinal worms, antimicrobial properties and supplies antioxidants.
Pumpkin, a popular vegetable most of us remember as Pumpkin Pie during Thanksgiving and being carved into Jack O’ Lanterns during Halloween. The health benefits of pumpkin make it more than just a figure for celebrating festivals.
The origins of pumpkin are not known but there is evidence that pumpkins were grown in Mexico and north America about 5000 to 7000 BC. Apart from Mexico, pumpkins have also been found almost all the continents except for Antarctica. Today, the biggest producers of pumpkin are the United States, Canada, India, China and Mexico.
Pumpkins are generally orange in color with size varying from 10 cm to over 500
cm in diameter and weigh between 1 pound to 1000 pounds. Every year in the United States, Pumpkin Festivals are held where a variety of pumpkins from the local farmers are displayed in varied artistic forms. These festivals also conduct the world’s heavy weight pumpkin champions. One can see some of the largest and heaviest pumpkins here.
Nutrition in pumpkin
According to the National Nutrient Database from the United States Department of Agriculture, the nutrition found in pumpkin include
|Nutritional Component||Value per 100 g||Nutritional Component||Value per 100 g|
|Water||91.6 g||Energy||26 kcal|
|Protein||1 g||Total Lipid (fat)||0.10 g|
|Carbohydrates||6.5 g||Fiber||0.5 g|
|Sugars||2.76 g||Calcium||21 mg|
|Iron||0.80 mg||Magnesium||12 mg|
|Phosphorous||44 mg||Potassium||340 mg|
|Sodium||1 mg||Zinc||0.32 mg|
|Vitamin C||9 mg||Thiamin||0.050 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.11 mg||Niacin||0.6 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.061 mg||Folate||16 ug|
|Vitamin A||8513 IU||Vitamin E||1.06 mg|
|Vitamin K||1.1 ug|
Can pumpkin given to babies?
Pumpkins can be fed to your child by the time he or she is 6 months old. Due to the presence of essential vitamins and minerals, it would be certainly good to introduce pumpkin to your child’s diet.
Health benefits of pumpkin in baby food
Here are some of the health benefits of pumpkin.
Supplies essential nutrients: The vitamins and minerals which are found in pumpkin are ideally suited for the development of babies. Some of them include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, vitamin E and vitamin K. These vitamins and minerals play important role in infant development. Calcium and magnesium help in building stronger bones, iron helps to produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, phosphorous aides in digestion, brain functioning, protein formation, hormone balance, etc. Vitamin C is an essential ingredient for strong immune system and vitamin A is for better eye sight.
Helps in building stronger immune system: Apart from being a good source of vitamin C, pumpkin has several important biochemicals that strengthen the immune system, have been noted in some studies. These studies have shown that pumpkin promotes splenic lymphocytic proliferation and natural killer cell activity.
Anthelmintic properties: Babies are more prone to infections not only from microbes but also from macroscopic organisms and worms are no exception. In such cases, pumpkin can be given to your baby. Pumpkin possesses good anthelmintic properties. This includes not only curing but also prevention when consumed regularly.
Good source of anti-oxidants: Pumpkins not only contain vitamins, minerals and few biochemicals, but they also contain Antioxidants. Antioxidants are those biochemicals which reduce oxidative stresses on various organs and help in protecting them. These antioxidants are not only useful for adults and elders, but they are also important for children as well.
Antimicrobial properties: Finally, pumpkins also possess antimicrobial properties. The incidence of microbial attack is more in babies and children than in adults due to the presence of stronger immune system in adults. In babies and children, the immune system is relatively weaker. In such cases, a food that can provide anti-microbial properties would be very good because it not only strengthens the immunity, it also prevents the attack of microbes. (Caili et al, 2006).
Measures to be taken while preparing pumpkin for babies
Here are some of the measures to be taken while preparing pumpkin.
Can pumpkin be given to babies? Yes, pumpkin can be given to your babies soon after solid foods have been started. This usually happens by 6 months of age. During this time, it is better to introduce vegetables and fruits as soon as possible.
How to select the best pumpkin? The secret of selecting the best pumpkin lies in the colour, texture and overall appearance. Pumpkin must be firm to handle without any soft spots or cuts. It must be orange in colour. It is better to take smaller pumpkins than those large pumpkins, if the intention is only to feed the baby else any size is good enough.
How to cook pumpkin? After the pumpkin has cleaned thoroughly on the outside, peel it and then begin cutting it. After cutting it, remember to remove all the seeds from the flesh without fail. These seeds are large enough to cause choking in infants. Cook the pieces as soon as possible.
You can cook pumpkin like most vegetables by either boiling it or steaming it. But, it is being fed to babies so to be more effective opt for steaming rather than boiling because several nutrients get dissolved and washed away during boiling process. Baking can also be a better choice. Make sure to puree it after cooking as it makes it easier for your baby to eat it.