Native to North America, pumpkins have grown here for more than 5,000 years. While pumpkins are technically a fruit, they are more similar to vegetables when it comes to their nutritional value.
Pumpkins are very versatile and nutritious. They are low in calories and high in fiber, making them a good option for those watching their calorie intake. Pumpkins are very high in important nutrients like vitamin A, important for eye health, and carotenoids like beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation. The vitamin A and vitamin C found in pumpkin are essential nutrients that are involved in strengthening the immune system and fighting infections.
Pumpkin is also a very good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds linked to lowering the risks of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, two common causes of blindness.
Uses for pumpkin go way beyond pie and carving. This season, add pumpkin to flavor many of your favorite dishes. Pumpkin adds additional nutrients to pancakes and soups. Or try pumpkin butter, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin fries, pumpkin pasta or pumpkin bread. Add it to chili or roast it. And don’t forget about pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas. They are also high in antioxidants, zinc, magnesium, fiber and healthy fats, so when you carve your Halloween pumpkin, be sure to reserve the seeds and roast them!
Barb Walsh, R.D., is the community nutrition educator in the Tevis Center for Wellness.