Author: Erin Connelly
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
October, the exciting month of Halloween and fall harvesting. Even more exciting, it is the month of pumpkins. October yields about 80% of the total pumpkin supply in the U.S.(1). With this current resource, the have made their annual appearance in the “seasonal flavors” of some of my favorite treats: lattes, bread, pie… etc. In my opinion, it’s really hard to go wrong when something has pumpkin added to it. Now, while pies and flavored lattes are not exactly what the dietitian ordered, pumpkin itself is a food that is often overlooked for its bounty of nutrients. The bright orange color of the pumpkin is not only correlated with jack-o-lanterns, but also its beta-carotene content. Carrots are not the only orange vegetable that helps with maintaining eye sight, immune function and serve as antioxidants. The beta-carotene (form of Vitamin A) found in pumpkin provides a whopping 245% of the recommended daily intake for Vitamin A in just one cup! That one cup also provides about 20% of your Vitamin C needs and 3 grams of fiber for only 50 calories(1).
All of this information sounds great, but there is still the question of how not to override the nutrient benefits of pumpkin with loads of sugar and fat when preparing it. I’ve been told that it’s all about creativity. For example, adding pumpkin puree to oatmeal to make for a sweet start to the day or substituting pumpkin puree for eggs and oil needed for boxed (spice) cake mixes to lower its fat and cholesterol content while making it still absolutely delicious. For specific recipe ideas, eatingwell.com has a nice collection of pumpkin-centered recipes from burgers to soup.
With pumpkins being produced locally, there are the added benefits of sustainability and supporting farmers in the area! Buying directly from the source will most likely save you money and will help to keep money within the community. In addition, there is less gas used in its transportation to a local farmers market. Finally, there is the unique benefit of talking to the person that grew the pumpkin when you choose to buy from a local source.
On behalf of the Dietetic Interns at St. Louis University, I wish you all a very happy month of October. May your pumpkins be beautiful decorations and nutritious additions to a balanced diet!