There’s a lot to love about the holiday season – the colors, the celebrations, and of course, the food! One of my personal favorite fall food items is the pumpkin. Most of the time, the foods associated with pumpkin just have pumpkin flavoring, such as pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, and let’s not forget the pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. These foods are usually processed with lots of added sugars and fats that you probably don’t need in your diet. However, pumpkin is actually packed with nutrients. I want to take this opportunity to highlight the nutritional potency of this special squash plant.
In the video below, Dustin Moore talks about the many nutritional benefits of pumpkins and pumpkin seeds.
If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.
The power-packed pumpkin
To begin, pumpkins are what dietitians would call a low-calorie starchy vegetable. A single cup of roasted pumpkin meat, or canned pumpkin, is only about 80 calories. When you compare that to one cup of sweet potato, which is triple the calories, you can appreciate how the pumpkin has an unusually low-calorie load. Besides being lower in calories, pumpkins are packed with many nutrients the body needs.
For one, pumpkins contain more fiber than even kale. In fact, there are 3 grams of fiber in a single cup of pumpkin! Fiber contributes to a feeling of fullness and decreases your likelihood of experiencing constipation.
Pumpkin is also an excellent source of both Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is a nutrient important for healthy vision, skin cell growth, and a strong immune system. Beta-carotene acts as a building block for producing more Vitamin A, and also is an antioxidant.
Rounding out these nutritional qualities, pumpkin is also a good source of potassium.
You may be impressed with the nutrient content so far, but we haven’t even talked about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds offer their own benefits. Once washed and roasted, you can season them how you like and enjoy them as a crunchy, on-the-go treat.
A one-ounce serving of roasted pumpkin seeds has about 7 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and is an excellent source of heart-healthy fats.
Pumpkin vs processed pumpkin
Now keep in mind, all of these nutritional benefits come from the actual pumpkin, whether that is roasted meat from the pumpkin itself or canned pumpkin meat.
Be aware of canned items, such as pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin pie mix. Unfortunately, they do not have the same nutritional qualities.
Pumpkin doesn’t just belong in a pie. There are so many recipes out there that you can try by adding either pumpkin meat, canned pumpkin, or even pumpkin seeds! This versatile seasonal squash has so much more to offer than just to be carved up, or have its flavor extracted and put in a latte. This season, I challenge you to incorporate pumpkin into at least one of your evening meals.
For more ideas to increase the nutrients in your diet and for recipes to meet your health goals, contact a registered dietitian near you.