Though commonly called ugwu leaf in Nigeria, pumpkin leaves are not peculiar to the easterners alone; this special vegetable is now very popular in the south-west as many people are now aware of the amazing nutritional benefits of pumpkin leaves (Ugwu).
People take ugwu leaves in different forms. While some love assorted and well-cooked ugwu soup to be taken with choice staple food, some prefer to boil and eat straight while others blend into a shake or smoothie.
Speaking on how to retain ugwu leaves nutrient, Mrs. Yeside Adesiyun, a Senior Research Officers and nutritionists, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos while speaking with NAN said, “How you prepare your Ugwu leaves can determine what you have left; the nutritional advice is that you should wash your leaves whole before cutting them.
“It helps to reduce the amount of nutrients that will be lost.
“Hot water blanching and prolonged cooking also reduce the nutrients. It is best to reduce heating and cooking time,’’ she said.
That being said, let’s look at some amazing nutritional benefits of ugwu leaf
1. Rich in iron: Growing up, ugwu was famous for its ability to supplement blood, so mother would squeeze out the water with milk to be given to a sick child. Various researches have shown the leaves are rich in iron, making it a natural cure for anemia.
2. Lowers cholesterol level: The hypolipidemic activities of the leaves make it a good and natural method of controlling cholesterol.
3. Vitamins: Ugwu is fortified with different forms of vitamins like Vitamin A and C, aside from this; it is a good source of calcium.
4. Prevention of convulsion: Sliced pumpkin leaves mixed with salt and coconut water and stored in a bottle can be used to prevent and treat convulsion.
5. Lactating properties: Pumpkin leaves are high in lactating properties making it a number one choice for nursing mothers.
6. Protein: pumpkin leaves are high in protein and could have supplementary effects of daily protein need in the body.
7. It has antibacterial properties.
8. Boost fertility: Dr. Ochuko Eruikainre of Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos said “Ugwu leaf oil has also shown to be beneficial to female fertility by maintaining the morphology of the ovary and uterus as well as increasing serum levels and oestrogen.
“This can be attributed to its nutritional and phytochemical constituents such as antioxidants which help to protect against oxidative stress.
“The water extract of the leaf has shown by several studies to have a pro-fertility effect in males.”