The Great Pumpkin
October is quickly whizzing by, and before we know it, Halloween will be here bringing with it spooky costumes, yummy treats, and bright orange
While you may be buying pumpkins for the sole purpose of carving them into scary faces to decorate your front steps and window sills on Halloween, the pumpkin's usefulness far surpasses the role of jack-o-lantern. Pumpkin is a fantastic ingredient that can be used in dishes both sweet and savoury and, even better, pumpkins are rife with nutrients that provide excellent health benefits.
Support your immune system
Like carrots and other richly coloured fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is high in beta carotene. Our bodies convert beta carotene to vitamin A, which keeps our immune systems healthy1. As well, it promotes good vision and general health. A one cup serving of mashed pumpkin contains 245% of our daily vitamin A requirement2. Additionally, that same cup of pumpkin will supply 19% of our daily vitamin C requirement.
Feel fuller, longer
Fibre is an important part of our diets, and one that we don't often get enough of. It's recommended that adults consume at least 18g of fibre per day, and for good reason. In addition to helping us feel fuller for longer, it can help reduce cholesterol and the risk of getting diabetes3. With only 49 calories and 0g of fat, one cup of pumpkin provides 3g of fibre2, more than 10% of our daily requirement.
And if you prefer to use tinned pumpkin over the fresh stuff, you may benefit even further! A can of solid pack pumpkin, found in some larger supermarkets, contains over 12g of fibre in a 425g can. In addition to being as tasty and healthy as the fresh stuff, using canned pumpkin in baked goods is a great way to replace oil and eggs, saving both calories and fat, while still tasting delicious. Simply add a tin of pumpkin to a box of cake mix from the shop and cook as instructed.
Help your heart
Whether you're planning to use your pumpkin for a delicious recipe, or carve it for Halloween, make sure to hold onto the seeds. Though higher in calories and fat compared to pumpkin flesh, the seeds are rich in nutrients, including magnesium. Studies have found that people with diets high in magnesium lower their risk of developing coronary heart disease4. In the UK, the daily recommended consumption of magnesium is 270mg for women, and 300mg for men5. Just 28g of pumpkin seeds will provide almost half of your daily recommended magnesium6.
In addition to being rich in nutrients, pumpkin seeds are also high in both fibre and protein, making them a nutritious and beneficial snack. For a tasty treat, clean the seeds and then drizzle in olive oil and roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes at 120 C, stirring the seeds halfway through. Once roasted, sprinkle with salt and dig in.
Originally published 27 October 2014
1. Medical News Today: What is beta-carotene?
2. SELF: Nutrition Data (Pumpkin)
3. British Nutrition Foundation: Dietary Fibre
4. Women's Health: The Mineral That Keeps Your Heart Healthy
5. NHS: Vitamins and minerals
6. SELF: Nutrition Data (Seeds)