Fluted pumpkin, also known as “ugu” leaves, originates from West Africa, particularly Nigeria. Its scientific name is Telfairia occidentalis. This leafy vegetable is a staple in Nigerian cuisine and is widely cultivated for its culinary and nutritional benefits.
The nature of fluted pumpkin is characterized by its distinctive fluted stem, large dark green leaves, and tendrils. It is a climbing plant that thrives in tropical climates, and its cultivation involves providing adequate sunlight and well-drained soil.
The importance of fluted pumpkin, or ugu leaves, lies in its nutritional richness. It is a good source of essential vitamins such as A and C, calcium, iron, and other micronutrients. The leaves are commonly used in soups, stews, and various local dishes, contributing both flavor and nutritional value to the diet.
Beyond its culinary uses, fluted pumpkin holds cultural significance and is often used in traditional medicine for its perceived health benefits. Additionally, the cultivation and trade of ugu leaves contribute to the economic well-being of farmers in the region.
Some Facts and Nutritional Benefits of Fluted Pumpkin Leaves or Vegetables include;
* Good Source of Dietary Fibre:
Fluted pumpkin leaves are a source of dietary fiber that helps maintain the digestive system’s health. It plays an essential role in improving digestion, thereby reducing health conditions like irritable bowel movement, constipation, and those caused by indigestion problems like ulcers and gastroparesis.
* Maintains the Body Tissues:
The vitamin contents in this vegetable help maintain healthy tissues, cells, membranes, and skin and treat wounds in the case of vitamin C. The protein in fluted pumpkin leaves alsoleaves also helps improve and maintain the body tissues, which include the connective tissues, muscles, and nervous systems.
* Rich in Antioxidants:
They are rich in alkaloids, resins, hydrocyanic acid, tannins, and flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that offer some immune system and anti-inflammatory benefits. Foods rich in antioxidants are known to be effective in preventing cancer and other associated health conditions like ulcers due to their ability to avoid the damages that oxidative stress should have caused in the body.
* Balances the Hormones:
Vegetable is known to have high protein content. Ugu contains the protein needed for hormone balancing; tissue repairs and regulates the acidities of body cells and organs. Consuming fluted pumpkin leaves is essential, as their protein content will also help improve the body cells and replace broken ones.
* Serve as an Anti-Diabetic Agent:
It has an anti-diabetic effect, which means it can treat diabetes mellitus by reducing glucose in the blood. It is possible due to the content of polysaccharides and ethyl acetate, which have effectively lowered blood sugar levels. They also effectively promote glucose tolerance and serum insulin. The extract of Ugu leaves has proved effective in this case, and it has been used as an anti-diabetic agent to regulate the blood glucose level.
* Improves Blood Production:
Fluted pumpkin leaves are always recommended for patients who suffer from a shortage of blood due to certain illnesses; the presence of iron and other essential minerals contributes to boosting blood in the body system and prevents anemia. For the effectiveness of helping boost blood production, it is recommended to be pounded, then strain the mashed vegetable to collect the liquid/juice.
* Improves the Bones and Teeth:
Fluted pumpkin vegetables contain a good amount of calcium needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth and keep the skeletal systems functioning normally. It also contains magnesium, which is vital in making the bone firm and strong. It might be surprising to say that calcium is almost ineffective to bones without magnesium as it helps the adequate absorption of calcium by the bones. Ugu also has potassium as one of the minerals it contains, which also helps maintain bone mineral density, which helps to make the calcium content in the bones intact, avoiding the leaching of the mineral. It helps to prevent osteoporosis, which affects the bones, especially in the aged.
* Treat Convulsion:
Ugu leaves have been found effective in treating convulsions in children. It becomes medicinal when sliced and mixed with coconut water and a small amount of salt. Scientifically, there might be no proof of this, but it was used hundreds of years ago to treat high fever and convulsion and remedy many other health conditions.
* Effective for Weight Loss:
Foods that help in weight loss are recommended for their effectiveness in weight management. Vegetables such as fluted pumpkin leaves contain a high amount of dietary fiber, which can help you lose weight as it makes you fuller and lowers your appetite. It contains little or no calories, eliminating the chances of storing more calories in the body.
* Promotes Fertility:
Fluted Pumpkin leaves have been used locally to treat infertility issues in both men and women. Its content of many vital nutrients and compounds has 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 the nursing mother adequately feed their babies by increasing breast milk production.
* Can Improve Memory:
Fluted pumpkin leaves, just like most green leafy vegetables, contain certain compounds that help to improve memory. It also contains vital nutrients such as vitamins and magnesium, which aid in improving and normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. It can help to Improve cognitive reasoning, memory loss (Dementia), and other health conditions associated with memory health, such as Alzheimer’s disease.