Every year, as the seasons change, the temperature drops and the rain clouds swell, we’re inclined to decorate our homes with all the orange we can find. The fall welcoming committee is in full effect. One of these decorations packs a nutritional punch, and can easily be incorporated into sweet and savory meals. Let’s learn more about pumpkin.
Pumpkins are a member of the Cucurbita family, the same as gourds, melons, cucumbers, and squashes like zucchini and summer squash. Believe it or not, they are actually considered a fruit, not a vegetable, despite their natural savory taste. The pumpkins we know today, the ones we hollow out and carve faces in, are considered part of the Connecticut Field variety. These are native to America, and were utilized by early colonial settlers. They were likely included in the first Thanksgiving, because of their dependability in growing, and sustainability after harvesting. Today, we continue the tradition, cooking pumpkin into desserts, stews, and soups.
Aside from its nostalgic and festive value, there are many reasons why you should strive to implement pumpkin into your diet. For one, it is very low in calories—just 26 calories per 100 grams—with a heaping helping of fiber. Studies show that increased fiber in the diet contributes to lower cholesterol and better digestion. As such, it is also a great means of weight-loss. Included in their long list of vitamins, pumpkins contain high levels of vitamin A, C and E. In fact, per 100 grams, pumpkin delivers 7,384 mg of vitamin A, amounting to 246% of your recommended daily value!
Unlike other fruits, every part of a pumpkin is edible, from the flowers to the flesh, back to the seeds. The flowers can be eaten raw in salads or cooked with other vegetables. The flesh can be used in soups, as well as a sweet pie filling. The seeds make a great snack when roasted and salted. Nutrient-wise, 100 grams of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 31% RDA of niacin, 17% RDA of selenium, and 71% RDA of zinc!