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Bottle gourd, opo squash and long melon are the different names to this vegetable. Bottle gourd provides various health benefits such as supply of essential vitamins and minerals, cure for acidity, safe and natural laxative, protection of liver, anthelmintic or cure for intestinal worms and cure for urinary disorders. The vegetable is generally eaten when it is young and it is left to mature and dry so that it can be used as a bottle or pipe. Some say, this is one of the reasons why bottle gourd gets its name from. An interesting fact is that dried bottle gourds were not only used as bottles but were also used to make traditional musical instruments in some countries like India. While some research into the origin of bottle gourd indicates that it was cultivated not for its nutritional value but for its use as a bottle, slowly the nutritional value of bottle gourd was also realized. Research indicates that bottle gourd has its origin in Africa and from here it reached East Asia and other parts of the world. Today, it is generally cultivated in tropical countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, China and tropical Africa and also in South America. At present, bottle gourd is not just a bottle any more. But, one can find it in many different sizes and colours. Some resemble winter melons or pumpkins in size and others, the long ones resemble snake gourds. The colours vary from light green colour to dark green colour. Nutritional value of bottle gourd The National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference from the US Department of Agriculture has listed the following nutritional values for bottle gourd Nutritional Value Water Protein Carbohydrate Calcium Magnesium Potassium Zinc Thiamin Niacin Folate Value per 100 g 95.54 g 0.62 g 3.39 g 26 mg 11 mg 150 mg 0.70 mg 0.029 mg 0.320 mg 6 ug Nutritional Value Energy Total Fat (Lipid) Fiber Iron Phosphorous Sodium Vitamin C Riboflavin Vitamin B-6 Vitamin A Value per 100 g 14 kcal 0.02 g 0.5 g 0.20 mg 13 mg 2 mg 10.1 mg 0.022 mg 0.040 mg 16 IU

Can bottle gourd be introduced into an infants diet? Bottle gourd is perhaps one of the first vegetables that can be introduced into your babys diet without any hesitation. This is perhaps the least reactive of all the vegetables. It is preferred for children, the elderly and the sick because of its easily digestible. Most of the bottle gourd is actually water and the rest of it contains essential vitamins and minerals.

Health benefits of bottle gourd for your babies Though bottle gourd is an easily digestible vegetable and it is prescribed for elderly and ill people, this humble vegetable offers a range of health benefits. When given to infants, they can be highly beneficial in the following ways. Vitamins and minerals: Bottle gourd is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals which are indispensible for your childs growth. Parents must make sure that children, particularly infants get an overall and balanced diet to a great extent possible so that no deficiencies can arise. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to diseases. In this case, feeding your child with bottle gourd is a good start. Reduces acidity: Bottle gourd has been traditionally eaten to reduce gastric ulcers. Babies can develop acidity when they have indigestion. Usually, indigestion can induce the stomach to produce acid which is more than required and hence lead to acidity. This can be reduced with bottle gourd. (Gorasiya, et al, 2011). Natural Laxative: Bottle gourd contains a high amount of dietary fiber. This fiber adds absorbs water and makes the stool easy to pass. By giving bottle gourd, you can make sure that your babys bowels are clean. (HK Bakhru, Foods That Heal). Protects liver: There is a higher risk of infants developing liver diseases such as jaundice or hepatitis. Under such conditions, apart from seeking medical attention, you can also feed him or her with bottle gourd. Bottle gourd has been known to be effective in protecting liver, as some studies have shown. (Gorasiya, et al, 2011) Anthelmintic activity: The seeds of bottle gourd are one of the traditional medicines to eradicate intestinal worms. The seeds of bottle gourd can be boiled, made into a paste and given to the baby, (not more than 2-3 teaspoons). This has immediate effect, as shown in some studies. (Gorasiya, et al, 2011) Urinary disorders: Urinary tract infections can be quite common among infants. One of the reasons behind it is lack of sufficient amount of water in the babys body. Lack of water to flush away the bacteria in the urinary tract can lead to infections. Feeding your baby with bottle gourd regularly and making sure that your baby drinks enough fluids, you can control urinary tract infections significantly. (Gorasiya, et al, 2011).

Some precautions to be taken For a vegetable which is as safe as bottle gourd, there are still certain precautions that need to be followed to prevent any negative effects. The age of bottle gourd introduction: Bottle gourd can be introduced into a childs diet when the child is about 6 months old. Introducing semi solid foods during this time is crucial for the babys health and development. How to give the bottle gourd: One of the best ways to give bottle gourd to your baby is by peeling the hard outer layer, cutting it into small pieces and steaming them. Do not boil it as the vitamins in it get washed away during the boiling process. Instead, opt for steaming. How much of bottle gourd: The amount of bottle gourd depends upon the age of the baby. When the baby is just 6 months old, then not more than a couple of tablespoons is required. You can increase the amount of bottle gourd as the baby progresses. Should the 4 day test be taken: Yes, make it a habit to apply the 4 day test for your baby. With this test, you can make sure whether or not your baby is allergic to bottle gourd or not. Not only bottle gourd, as a matter of fact for any vegetable.

References Gourd (Calabash), National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2955?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max= 25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=calabash HK Bakhru, Foods That Heal, pp 96, Orient Paperbacks, 1997, New Delhi, India. Gorasiya, Paranjape, Murti, Pharmacognostic And Pharmacological Profile Of Lagenaria Siceraria (Molina) Standley: A Review. Pharmacology Online 3: 317324 (2011). http://www.unisa.it/uploads/5917/38.murti.pdf

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