Pumpkin: Seasonal Fad or Nutritional Powerhouse?
Pumpkin season is upon us! It is impossible not to notice all the new pumpkin inspired products that are introduced to us as consumers every year, from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin Spam. Not only do pumpkins make fun decorations during the fall, but pumpkin-flavored products have become a staple for many of us as the seasons start to change. While pumpkin has a delicious flavor, it is also a type of winter squash with many health benefits as well!
Here are just a few of the great nutritional qualities of pumpkin:
- It is high in antioxidants, which can protect our bodies against cell damage.
- It can help boost our immune systems! Pumpkins are very nutrient-dense (rich in vitamins and minerals), specifically a great source of vitamin A, which can help us fight off infections.
- It is low in calories (only 50 calories per cup) and a good source of fiber! High fiber foods can help with blood sugar control, weight management, and improved cholesterol levels.
- It is good for heart health, skin health, and eye health. The nutrients found in pumpkin have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, strong and healthy skin, and protection from eye damage.1
Pumpkin is a versatile ingredient that can easily be incorporated into a variety of dishes. In fact, a can of pumpkin puree can be added to many foods that might already be staples in your diet. Here are some creative ways to use pumpkin in your day to day meals:
- Add it to your morning bowl of oatmeal. A spoonful of pumpkin puree mixed with plain warm oatmeal and a handful of walnuts makes for a nice filling fall breakfast.
- Blend it into a smoothie. Add some Greek yogurt, 1 small banana, a scoop of pumpkin puree, and ice to a blender. Add fall spices, such as cinnamon, blend and voila.
- Spread it on a toasted whole grain waffle. (It can also be mixed into batter if preferred.)
- Put a spin on another classic fall favorite – pumpkin chili! Add a full can of pumpkin puree or roasted pumpkin to any favorite chili recipe.
- Roast the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Pumpkin seeds can be added to salads, stirred into yogurt, or eaten on their own with a side of fruit for a filling snack. They are a great plant-based protein option.
- Save some money and make your own pumpkin latte at home! Use a milk of choice, coffee, and a couple scoops of pumpkin puree – warm and sweeten to taste. You can also add cinnamon and nutmeg for additional flavor.
- Stir pumpkin puree into some low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt for a sweet high-protein snack.
With all the amazing health benefits of pumpkin, it is clear that this is not just a trendy fall flavor. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “superfood,” and that a well-balanced diet should include a wide variety of foods and colors, but pumpkins should be a food to try and include this season if you are looking for an antioxidant boost. Make an appointment with an Avance Care registered dietitian to learn more about ways you can add fun flavors to your meals while improving your health, one small change at a time. Book online at avancenutrition.com or call (919) 237-1337, option 4 to schedule your appointment today. Happy fall!
Bonnie is a registered dietitian at the Avance Care Durham location. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her home of Raleigh, NC and playing with her new puppy, Nola, or kitty, Wolfgang. She enjoys most sports and can often be found cheering on her NC State Wolfpack, Carolina Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes.