Along with décor, we also generally associate pumpkins with delicious fall sweets like pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies and, of course, the infamous pumpkin spice lattes! While these things are delicious and comforting, they’re not generally considered healthy because of their high fat and sugar content. Pumpkins traditionally will be purchased as decorations for the Autumn holidays, displayed whole or carved with spooky, lit up faces.
Even though pumpkin is most widely considered a pie filling, it actually boasts some seriously impressive health benefits:
- It’s a ‘nutrient dense’ food. This means it’s full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s low in calories.
- Consuming one cup of cooked, canned pumpkin (not to be confused with canned pumpkin pie mix) will provide you with well over 100% of your daily vitamin A needs, and 20% of your daily vitamin C needs.
- It’s one of the best sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Beta carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offer protection against asthma and heart disease.
- Because of the fiber, potassium and vitamin C content in pumpkin – eating it is good for the heart. Consuming enough potassium helps with hypertension, and increased potassium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke.
- Pumpkin seeds contain an amazing amount of magnesium, zinc, and is a source of plant-based omega-3s (not to mention fiber!)
There are actually many creative ways that pumpkin can be incorporated into a healthy diet besides dessert:
- Add a cup of pumpkin puree to your morning protein shake and sprinkle in some cinnamon and nutmeg
- Search online for pumpkin soup recipes – you can find anything from simple roasted pumpkin sage soups to hearty turkey, white bean and pumpkin chili.
- As you’re carving your Halloween pumpkins, remove and rinse the seeds inside. Later, you can season and roast them for a healthy snack.
- Pumpkin is also a versatile addition to hummus, pasta sauce, oatmeal – even mashed potatoes!
This article first appeared in the October 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.