Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice!
Brittany Kelley, RD LDN
Pumpkins in the fall can most commonly be seen as a decoration on the foot of your doorstep, or carved into a jack-o-lantern around Halloween. However, most people don’t know that pumpkin is a highly nutritious food that provides a number of health benefits. The pumpkin is an annual vine that belongs to the Cucurbitaceaefamily, which also includes squash, cucumbers, watermelons, and gourds. The traditional pumpkin’s bright orange coloring makes it a unique vegetable for appearance, but it also contains a multitude of vitamins and minerals to our diets when consumed as food.
Pumpkins are high in several nutrients including potassium, vitamin a, c, and e folic acid, iron, magnesium, and riboflavin – all essential for a healthy immune system, eyesight, gut health, and heart health. In fact, just one cup of cooked pumpkin provides 245% of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A! Orange and yellow vegetables will contain the most beta-carotene (vitamin A) so it’s no wonder pumpkin’s have a ton! Similarly, pumpkin’s high magnesium content makes this squash a great natural remedy for an upset stomach or GI irritability.
Likewise, pumpkins are close to 90% water making them naturally low in calories; in fact one cup of canned pumpkin contains 83 kcal and less than 1 g fat so don’t feel guilty when having that piece of pumpkin pie at a holiday party. In addition, pumpkin’s fiber content is actually higher than kale and most other vegetables making it a great way to add fiber to any meal. Not to mention that pumpkin can be used in SO many different recipes from pies to soups, and can even be enjoyed from the inside by snacking on the pumpkin seeds!
Pumpkin seeds offer their own unique health benefits including being a high source of plant based protein (7 g per 1-oz serving). Pumpkin seeds also contain omega-6 fatty acids and tryptophan which is an amino acid that helps the body produce mood-uplifting serotonin. The seeds also contain fiber, heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and even vitamin K.
To conclude, Pumpkin is a great food to try this fall while they’re in season. To add them into your diet try: Snacking on toasted pumpkin seeds, bake some in the oven like a winter squash or sweet potato and add cinnamon and a little brown sugar for flavor, or sneak a little into muffins or a smoothie! Check out the following recipe for an idea you can make at home! Don’t knock it till you try it!