Carve a Place for Pumpkin in Your Diet
Did you know that pumpkin – either canned or fresh – is a healthful, filling food? And adding it to recipes, or substituting other ingredients with pumpkin, is a great way to boost the nutrition of the foods you eat without adding a lot of calories.
What Is So Great About Pumpkin?
A half-cup of canned pumpkin has:
- Just 40 calories
- More than 3 grams of fiber
- Very little fat
- More than three times the vitamin A you need in a day in the form of beta-carotene. This is more than you would get from most supplements.
Fresh pumpkin that has been cubed and boiled has fewer calories – or about 25 per half-cup – than canned pumpkin. But it also has less fiber, iron, and vitamin K. Both forms are healthful choices, although canned pumpkin is more convenient.
Tips and Tools for Getting Pumpkin into Your Diet
- Choosing your pumpkin – When opting for fresh pumpkin, choose smaller “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins instead of the larger jack-o-lanterns for best results.
- Cooking your pumpkin – You can cook pumpkin, as you would any squash, by baking, microwaving or steaming it. Just:
- Rinse the outside well.
- Cut it in half.
- Scoop out the seeds.
- Cook as desired until the flesh is soft.
- Choosing canned pumpkin – If you decide canned pumpkin is a better choice for you, pick a salt-free version. Canned pumpkin with salt contains almost 300 milligrams of sodium in a half-cup.
- Stick to the real deal – Don’t make the mistake of buying pumpkin pie filling, which has almost three times the calories, instead of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is sometimes called pureed pumpkin.
- Get some recipes – Ideas for using canned pumpkin are incredibly varied. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers more than a dozen recipes using pumpkin on its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Recipe Finder site. Search for recipes containing “pumpkin”.
- Try it out – If you are an adventurous cook, try experimenting with your own recipes:
- Add canned or mashed cooked pumpkin to cookies, muffins, quick breads and pancakes.
- The next time you make a pot of chili, include a can of pumpkin. It helps thicken up the chili and gives it some stomach-filling substance with very few calories. The pumpkin flavor blends in with chili spices.
- Add diced pumpkin to soup. It is especially good with bean soup.
- Make a creamy pumpkin soup with canned or fresh pureed pumpkin, broth, onion, and milk, and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper.
- Roast the pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack alone or with a nut and seed mix.
Experiment with the amount. Pumpkin is moist, but too much can make products like these heavier than you’re accustomed to.
Whatever the season, pumpkin can be a healthy addition to your diet!
This article originally appeared in Chow Line, a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.
For more information:
Go to the Diet and Nutrition health topic.