It’s pumpkin season. The time where the shelves are full of everything pumpkin, from delicious pumpkin cheesecake cookies, to pumpkin spice hot chocolate, to pumpkin pancake mix.
The warming aroma of cinnamon fills the air and our bodies crave that warm pumpkin muffin we smell as we’re getting our morning coffee. Pumpkin foods are everywhere this time of year, but are there actually any health benefits from eating pumpkin or is it just a gimmick flavor we like to indulge in once the weather gets cooler?
The answer is that pumpkin is actually a highly beneficial food to have in our diets and one that we shouldn’t cut out once the fall season is over. Pumpkins are, in fact, a fruit even though they may seem like just a fun fall staple. As fruits, pumpkins are packed with a lot of nutrients and have many long term health benefits.
Pumpkin’s are extremely high in both vitamin A and vitamin C. According to the National Institutes of Health, Vitamin A is crucial for “normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction.” The National Institutes of Health recommends that young adult men intake around 900 mcg of vitamin A a day, and 700 mcg for females of the same age.
Raw pumpkins contain a large amount of vitamin A with around 426 mcg, which would definitely help contribute to reaching the necessary daily amount. The NIH also notes the importance of vitamin C in our diets which includes improving the absorption of iron in our bodies as well as working to boost the productivity of our immune systems.
In addition to vitamins, pumpkins are also very high in fiber and packed with potassium.Foods high in fiber are extremely important to incorporate in our diets because they help control blood sugar after a meal and help digestion by speeding up the movement of food through the large intestine. Eating enough potassium is also important because the mineral helps control blood pressure, promotes bone health and significantly decreases your risk for diabetes.
Pumpkin is also a food that has no fat, is sodium free and has no cholesterol. These are all ingredients that could lead to serious health issues such as cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. Pumpkin is also a nutrient-dense food, meaning it’s low in calories but packed with a ton of minerals and vitamins that leaves you feeling full.
However, the question is, how often do people actually indulge in pumpkin foods when it’s not fall? The answer to this: not as many as they should. Freshman marketing major Caroline Edelen notes that she will rarely eat pumpkin when it’s not fall. “Sometimes I’ll have some pumpkin seeds,” she says.
While she loves drinking a warm pumpkin spice latte in the fall, it’s just not something she gravitates towards any other time of the year. Business analytics major Sasha Kazakov reiterates this point as she simply said “never,” when asked how often she eats pumpkin past December. Once again Kasakov loves pumpkin during the autumn season, eating pumpkin muffins and pumpkin bread weekly, but simply doesn’t feel the need to eat pumpkin after fall is over.
It seems to be that while pumpkin is extremely popular during the fall season, it loses its excitement as we enter the winter months. However, including pumpkin in our diets would be extremely beneficial due to the multitude of health benefits listed above.
Incorporating more pumpkin into your diet may seem a lot harder than it actually is. People often forget that there are many recipes that include pumpkin, expanding beyond the sugary recipes that we see so often in the fall. Eating a pumpkin muffin or cookie is good every once and a while, but it is not sustainable. There are many savory pumpkin options that are easier to cook and incorporate into one’s daily meals.
An example includes pumpkin soup, which only requires a few ingredients and is very simple to make. Other ways to include pumpkin are adding it to your salad for some added flavor, cooking a creamy pumpkin alfredo, making a pumpkin dip to go with some graham crackers, snacking on some roasted pumpkin seeds or even adding some of it into your smoothies. The US Department of Agriculture has posted an infographic with five easy pumpkin recipes for even more ways to get your share of pumpkin.
In addition to pumpkin recipes, the fruit can be used as a substitute for less healthy ingredients while cooking. Pumpkin puree can be used instead of oil, butter, and even eggs in a variety of baking and cooking recipes. This is an especially viable option for those that don’t enjoy the taste of pumpkin, follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or have dietary restrictions..
Pumpkin is most definitely a fall staple that is here to stay. While pumpkin foods will continue to be popular in the cozy autumn months, there should be more of an effort to include pumpkin in your diet year round. Pumpkins are low in calories, nutrient-dense, easy to access and use in recipes, and full of vitamins and minerals that keep our bodies functioning properly.
Check out this delicious pumpkin cheesecake swirl muffin recipe!