Fall is in the air, and soon pumpkins will be adorning front porches and yards all over the country. But these fruits (yes, fruits!) are good for much more than just jack-o-lanterns…
Pumpkin is an extremely nutrient dense food, meaning it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals (and fiber!) but low in calories. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pumpkin, has many health benefits. For example, pumpkin is one of the best-known sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant known to give orange vegetables and fruits their vibrant color. Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offer protection against heart disease.
When it comes to picking your pumpkin from the patch, the large jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkins is great for carving but it’s not the best for eating. They taste bland and are very stringy. For recipes, your best bet is to go with the ones labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some specific names are Baby Pam, Baby Bear, Autumn Gold, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella and Fairy Tale. Cinderella and Fairy Tale pumpkins have hard, thick skins, but you will find delicious flesh inside. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: Pumpkin spice lattes do not count towards your daily fruit goal! Nice try, though.
Using fresh pumpkin and preparing it yourself is fun and will give you the most health benefits, but it’s not always feasible. Canned pumpkin is also a great choice. But be sure to steer clear of canned pumpkin pie mix that contains added sugars. You’ll find this imposter sitting right next to the canned pumpkin on grocery store shelves. Canned pumpkin should have only one ingredient: pumpkin.
There are many creative ways pumpkin can be incorporated into your meal plan with soups, salads, side dishes, and desserts. You can even use pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin in place of oil or butter in baking recipes. And don’t forget to roast the seeds! Here are a couple of seasonal pumpkin-based treats that are made even more nutritious with the addition of another nutrient-packed powerhouse—Sun-Maid Raisins.
And of course I can’t end a blog on pumpkins without mentioning the movie It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Every year, I find myself rooting for Linus, hoping that he will finally see the Great Pumpkin. As he says, “I’ll be there! I’ll be sitting there in that pumpkin patch… and I’ll see the Great Pumpkin. Just wait and see.”
What’s your favorite food made with pumpkin?