Fluted pumpkin leaves [Ugu]are greenish leafy vegetables grown in Nigeria and other West African countries. They are edible when boiled or cooked with foods; it can also be taken as a vegetable salad or as juice when mashed as fresh leaves and the juice extracted.
It is called sokoyokoto in Yoruba, Ugu in Igbo language, kabewa in Hausa, and Ikong-Ubong in Efik. It contains calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese also provides a good amount of vitamin C, A, B2 and E.
Here are some nutritional benefits of fluted pumpkin leaves or vegetables;
1. Good Source of Dietary Fibre
Fluted pumpkin leaves are a source of dietary fibre that helps in the healthy maintenance of the digestive system.
It plays an important role in improving digestion thereby reducing the chances of health conditions like an irritable bowel movement, constipation and those causes by indigestion problems like ulcers and gastroparesis.
Green leafy vegetables such as fluted pumpkin leaves (ugu) are rich in dietary fibre and should form a part of our daily meal to gain the benefits of this fibre.
2. Maintains the Body Tissues
The vitamin contents present in this vegetable helps in maintaining healthy tissues, cells, membrane as well as maintaining the skin and treating of wounds in the case of vitamin C.
The protein in fluted pumpkin leaves also helps in the improvement and maintenance of the body tissues which includes the connective tissues, muscles and the nervous systems.
3. Rich in Antioxidants
They are rich in alkaloids, resins, hydrocyanic acid, tannins and flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants that offer some immune system and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants are known to be effective in the prevention of cancer and other associated health conditions like ulcer due to its ability to prevent the damages which should have been caused by the oxidative stress in the body.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are one of the underlying causes of cancer and other age-related illnesses and can cause changes in the DNA which could result in cancer formation.
4. Balances the Hormones
The vegetable is known to have high protein content. Ugu contains the amount of protein needed for hormone balancing; tissue repairs and regulates the acidities of body cells and organs.
This is why consuming fluted pumpkin leaves (ugu) is very essential as its content of protein will also help in improving the body cells as well as replacing broken ones in the body.
5. Serve as Anti-Diabetic Agent
It has an anti-diabetic effect which means that it has the ability to treat diabetes mellitus by reducing the level of glucose in the blood.
This is made possible due to the content of polysaccharides and ethyl acetate which have been effective in lowering the blood sugar level. They are also effective in promoting glucose tolerance as well as the levels of serum insulin.
The extract of Ugu leaves have proved effective in this case, and it has been used as an anti-diabetic agent to regulate the blood glucose level.
6. Improves Blood Production
Fluted pumpkin leaves are always recommended for patients who suffer from a shortage of blood due to the effect of certain illnesses; the presence of iron and other important minerals in it contribute in the boosting of blood in the body system and prevent anaemia.
Iron being one of the essential minerals in the red blood cells, can cause adverse reactions such as the one stated above when there is its deficiency. Therefore fluted pumpkin leaves have been used in improving the level of blood in the body.
For the effectiveness of helping boost blood production, ugu is recommended to be pounded, then strain the mashed vegetable to collect the liquid/juice. Most times milk is also added to the juice before drinking.
7. Improves the Bones and Teeth
Fluted pumpkin vegetable contains a good amount of calcium that the body needs for maintaining healthy bones and teeth also keep the skeletal systems in normal functioning conditions.
It also contains magnesium which plays a vital role in making the bone firm and strong, it might be surprising to say that without magnesium, calcium is almost ineffective to bones as it helps the adequate absorption of calcium by the bones.
It also plays the same function on the teeth, as adequate magnesium in the body helps in making the teeth stronger and firm.
Ugu also has potassium as one of the minerals it contains which also help in maintaining the bone mineral density which means that helps to make the calcium content in the bones intact avoiding the leaching of the mineral.
This helps to prevent osteoporosis, which affects the bones especially in the aged.
8. Treat Convulsion
Ugu leaves have been found effective in treating convulsion in children. It becomes medicinal in this case when sliced and mixed with coconut water and with a small amount of salt.
Scientifically there might be no proof of this, but it has been used hundreds of years ago in the treatment of high fever and convulsion, and serve as a remedy to many other health conditions.
9. Effective for Weight Loss
Foods that help in weight loss are recommended for its effectiveness in weight management. Vegetables such a fluted pumpkin leaves (ugu) contain a high amount of dietary fibre which can help you lose weight as it makes one fuller and lowers their appetite.
Not only that, it contains little or no calories which eliminate the chances of storing more calories in the body.
In as much as calories are good for the body which helps provide energy, if they are not totally utilized can start accumulating in the body thereby leading to weight gain.
10. Promotes Fertility
Fluted Pumpkin leaves have been used locally in the treatment of infertility issues in both men and women.
Its content of many vital nutrients and compounds have proven effective in its use to boost/improve sperm count in men and the overall functioning of their testicles.
It boosts fertility in women and improves post-pregnancy health as it helps nursing mother to adequately feed their babies by increasing breast milk production.
11. Can Improve Memory
Fluted pumpkin leaves (ugu) just as most green leafy vegetables contain certain compounds which help to improve memory.
It also contains vital nutrients such as vitamins and magnesium which aid in the improvement and normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.
This can help in improving cognitive reasoning, memory loss (Dementia) and other health conditions associated to memory health such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Nutritional Values of Fluted Pumpkin Leaves (Ugu) (90g)
They are rich in dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins A, B6, C, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, thiamine, manganese niacin, folate, magnesium, iron, potassium, antioxidants and vitamins flavonoid, poly-phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, xanthins and carotene.
Read: Benefit Of Ewedu Leaves
Where are Fluted Pumpkin Leaves Grown?
Fluted Pumpkin Leaves (ugu) is mainly grown in the southern part of Nigeria where it is used in various local cuisines and soup, but it is also grown in other West African countries like Ghana, Sierra Leona and others.
Its scientific name is Telfairia Occidentalis and is grown for its edible seeds and green leafy vegetable.
Fluted Pumpkin Seeds
The seed can be found in the gourd and is edible, as it can be used as snacks by roasting or boiling it. In some cases, it can serve as a soup thickener by drying and grinding it into fine particles.
The seeds are beneficial as well and contain oil (fats), and other vital minerals and nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fibre and more.
Is it Safe to Eat Fluted Pumpkin Leaves Raw?
Pumpkin contains lots of nutrients which can be found mostly in its raw form as some might be killed during cooking. But it is still necessary to be cooked a little in order to destroy some of the bacteria’s which might be present and can’t be seen by the physical eyes.
Except this, it is generally considered safe to eat.
Culinary and Medical Uses
They are basically known to be used for culinary purposes but most people are yet to know that they jointly or separately produce effective benefits to human health which are not limited to treating several health issues, replenishing dead cells in the body and maintaining the tissues and membranes.
Fluted pumpkin leaves are generally considered safe as there are no recorded proven side effects.
Fluted Pumpkin leaves help in protecting the body against disease as well as improving the overall health. Therefore it has to form a part of our daily meal in order to gain these necessary benefits that it offers.