All About Pumpkin! By Christine Steerman, MA, RD, LDN

Fall is officially here and with that comes the influx of pumpkin flavored foods and beverages! Let’s break out of the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) box, and try adding this fiber-rich squash in to a variety of meals this fall and winter!

A little bit about pumpkin. Pumpkin is a member of the squash family. It is rich in Beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A, and an important antioxidant that supports our immune system, may reduce the risk of certain cancers, benefit heart health, and reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as macular degeneration. Pumpkin also contains vitamins E, C, and B6, potassium, iron, and folate.

The typical pumpkins we pick for decorating or carving at Halloween are not the type we would necessarily enjoy eating. A Sugar Pumpkin or New England Pie are the types to consider for cooking or baking. Canned pumpkin puree is typically available year-round as well; just be sure to look for pumpkin as the only ingredient.

Some fun facts about pumpkin that you may not know (source: University of Illinois Extension: Pumpkins and More):

  • Pumpkins are considered a fruit and are 90% water.
  • The top pumpkin production states are: Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.
  • Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits and originated in Central America.
  • Sizes can range from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.

Pumpkin Nutrition Facts (source: USDA FoodData Central)
(1 cup cooked, boiled, drained, without salt or added fat)

Calories: 49

Fat: 0g
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrate: 12g

Sugar: 5g
Dietary Fiber: 3g
Calcium: 37 mg
Iron: 1.4 mg
Magnesium: 22 mg
Potassium: 561 mg

Zinc: 0.6 mg
Selenium: .50 mg
Vitamin C: 12 mg
Niacin: 1 mg
Folate: 22: mcg
Vitamin A, RAE: 703mcg
Vitamin E: 2 mg

 

Don’t forget about the seeds!

Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) contain zinc, magnesium, fiber, and the essential amino acid tryptophan. They can be removed from the pumpkin and roasted.

Ways to use pumpkin: bake, roast, use to make a soup, add pumpkin puree into your oatmeal, or substitute canned or fresh puree for butter or oil in baking. You can even add it to a smoothie! Try roasting the seeds and topping your salad for a great crunch or add to homemade granola and trail mixes for a boost of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients.

Considerations for incorporating pumpkin into your meals and snacks:

  • Pumpkin overnight oats
  • Pumpkin protein smoothie
  • Roasted pumpkin soup or add to chilis
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds added to salads, granola, and oats

What are some of your favorite ways to use pumpkin?

 

References:

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/pumpkins/nutrition.cfm

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/787602/nutrients

https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/10/25/pumpkin-seeds-pack-a-healthy-punch