Field of pumpkins in green grass with rays of sunlight from a distant sunrise

9 reasons to add pumpkin to your diet

Infographic - it's Pumpkin SeasonPumpkin spice everything has dominated our recent autumn seasons, but there’s much more than lattes to this fruit – and yes, pumpkins are a fruit. Maybe your life just changed with that tidbit.

Read on to find how pumpkin can be an added benefit to your diet.

1.Better eyes and better immunity

Do you ever wonder how pumpkin is so vibrantly orange? Its color is due to beta-carotene. Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is helpful for our eyes and immune system. In fact, a one-cup serving of canned pumpkin has 250% of our recommended daily amount of Vitamin A!

2.Fruit for thought

Like all fruits, pumpkin is a good source of fiber. Canned pumpkin contains 7 grams of fiber per one-cup serving. Fiber is beneficial for removing cholesterol from the body, keeping blood sugars from spiking and helping regulate bowel habits. In addition, fiber also helps us to feel fuller longer. This can decrease overeating and help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

3.Heart healthy

If you try to eat heart healthy, then pumpkin is for you! Heart-healthy eating consists of choosing foods that are low in fat, salt and sugar, but high in fiber. You can check off the box on all those when it comes to pumpkin. Per half-cup serving, canned pumpkin has almost no fat, practically no salt and no added sugar. Say goodbye to guilt and hello to flavorful nutrition that is full of fiber.

4.P is for potassium

Almost one-third of Americans have high blood pressure. To help decrease your blood pressure, try eating pumpkin, which contains potassium that helps to control blood pressure. Potassium also helps with bone health and decreases your risk for diabetes. Around 10% of your daily potassium is found in just a half-cup serving of canned pumpkin.

5.Low in calories

Many of the dishes containing pumpkin are most often desserts, which are loaded with calories. However, pumpkin is likely not the source of the high calories. Most of the calories are coming from the fat and the sugar used to make the dessert taste so good.

Therefore, we may have a mental bias that pumpkin is high in calories. Frankly, it is quite the opposite. One cup of canned pumpkin contains only 83 calories. In fact, pumpkin is 90% water.

6.Nutrient-dense food

Since pumpkin is low in calories, you may be wondering how it can have much nutritional benefit in such few calories. In fact, many of our fruits and vegetables are called nutrient-dense foods. This means they are low in calories, but packed with a ton of vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy. I like to think of it as getting the most bang for my buck. When I eat pumpkin, I do not have to spend many calories to get a wide variety of health benefits.

7.Hidden treasure inside

When we talk pumpkin, we often think of mouthwatering sweet treats, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, or pumpkin doughnuts. But don’t forget about the seeds!

Pumpkin seeds may be small but they are mighty. Packed with magnesium, zinc and fiber, pumpkin seeds add even more great nutrients. According to the American Heart Association, one-fourth of a cup of pumpkin seeds has almost half of our daily recommended amount of magnesium.

Magnesium helps lower blood pressure and maintain good bone health. Unfortunately, about 50% of Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diet. A simple solution to this may just be in this mighty seed.

8.Cooking substitute

If you are wondering how to get more pumpkin in your diet, try using it as a substitute in baking. A simple substitute to start is using pumpkin puree for oil. The substitute is one-to-one, so if the recipe calls for one cup of oil, simply use one cup of pumpkin puree instead.

Another substitute is using pumpkin puree for butter. To do this, multiply the amount of butter in the recipe by three-fourths (or .75). This will tell you how much pumpkin puree to use. For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, you would use three-fourths of a cup of pumpkin puree.

You can even replace eggs by using one-fourth of a cup of pumpkin puree for each egg. Substitutions may change the texture of the product. Therefore, start with just one substitute at a time. Hopefully you will find the “sweet spot” with using pumpkin in your baked goods.

9.Ease of use

Although we often use pumpkin in sweet foods, it works well in savory foods, too. If you are wanting more savory uses, try roasting pumpkin in the oven and pureeing it to make pumpkin soup, or using its creaminess to make a pumpkin alfredo. Add some additional nutrients by topping whatever you make with some roasted pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin may be a fall flavor, but the health benefits of pumpkin are good all year-round. Whether you want a sweet or savory pumpkin dish, try one of these pumpkin recipes created by OSF HealthCare dietitians.

 

 

About Author: Kaela Ketcham

Kaela Ketcham, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian with OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center. She currently works in the outpatient Cardiac Rehab program, teaching patients how to help their heart through nutrition. Kaela strives to show patients that eating healthy can still taste good while including a wide variety of foods. She believes God gave us taste buds to enjoy food, but He also gave us a body to take care of.

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