When October comes around, the word “pumpkin” makes its way back into our vocabulary. Often, though, we discuss pumpkins with respect to what we are going to carve into them or how soul-warming our pumpkin-spice latte was that morning. Then, come November, it is all about pumpkin pies and whether one will make an appearance at the end of Thanksgiving dinner. But pumpkin is a lot more than an item to be carved, used as a coffee flavoring, or eaten as a pie; it’s a truly versatile nutrient-dense powerhouse.
Pumpkin’s characteristic bright orange color is from beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant. Just 1 cup of pumpkin provides 245% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin A, which helps preserve our vision, fight infections, maintain healthy skin and bones, and ensure regular cell growth and division. It is also a great source of potassium. Potassium is critical for muscle contraction, fluid balance, and nerve signaling. This all comes in a package that provides only 24 calories.
When picking a pumpkin – smaller sweet or pie pumpkins are best for cooking - look for a product without blemishes that are firm and heavier for their size.
Are you picking up canned puree? Take a look at the nutrition information and only buy items that are 100% pumpkin and not pie mix, as the mix often has added sugar.
Some interesting ways to include more pumpkin in your diet include: stirring the puree into soups, chilies, and stews or adding it to pancakes or quick breads. Layer some low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt with the puree and add low-fat granola with cinnamon and nutmeg to garnish. Or, you can just enjoy roasted pumpkin, cube and roast with a little olive oil.