It’s that time of year again! The Fall season is upon us and we start seeing that word everywhere, “Pumpkin.” It seems that many brand name products believe that everything can use a little bit of spice……that is, Pumpkin Spice. So far this season I have found pumpkin lattes, pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin protein bars, pumpkin chips, pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin Cheerios, pumpkin cookies, and the list goes on. For many consumers it’s all about the pumpkin signaling the beginning of the Fall season. While many food industries take this ingredient to an extreme, and use it in many sugar filled products, let’s take a closer look at the pumpkin and it’s nutritious side.
· A cultivar of a squash plant, but considered a fruit.
· 1 cup of cooked, boiled, and drained pumpkin is 49 calories, 2 grams protein, and has 12 grams of carbohydrates.
· Pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for the maintenance of the immune system, important in growth and development and vision.
· 1 cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A.
· Pumpkin seeds are edible and nutrient rich. Pumpkin seeds contain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols, which have been shown in some studies to help reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). These seeds can be roasted as a snack.
· Pumpkin seeds can help boost your mood. Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is important in the production of serotonin in the brain that helps regulate our mood.
· Pumpkins are 90% water.
· Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, by containing 3 grams per 1 cup serving. Fiber helps keep you feeling full longer, which can help promote weight loss.
· Pumpkin can help refuel athletes after a hard workout. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains 564 mg of potassium compared to a banana, which has 422 mg of potassium.
This delicious fruit can be added to many healthy recipes to provide not only a tasty flavor, but also a nutrient packed punch. While pumpkin is the taste of the season, make sure you are still conscious of all the other ingredients listed in your food choices. Continue to pay close attention to those food labels for calories, sugars and fat as you choose your tasty treat.
University of Illinois Extension