Pumpkins make for great seasonal decor and a latte flavor, but do they provide any nutritional benefits? While a pumpkin spice latte may include a few too many grams of sugar and saturated fat, actual pumpkin, a type of winter squash, is a nutrient-dense food.
Pumpkins are especially rich in a carotenoid known as beta carotene which gives them their orange color. Your body turns this beta carotene into vitamin A which is an important antioxidant for maintaining eye health, skin health, and immune function. Just one cup (245 grams) of canned pumpkin provides more than 200% of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A.
The amount of potassium found in pumpkins is also worth highlighting, as consuming more potassium may help to lower your blood pressure, improve your bone health and decrease your risk of stroke and kidney stones. It’s recommended to consume 2,600 mg of potassium per day for women and 3,400 mg per day for men. One cup (245 grams) of canned pumpkin provides you with just over 500 mg of potassium.
Fiber supports balanced blood sugar and helps to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. Fiber also helps you feel full and satisfied. Recommended daily fiber needs are at least 25 grams per day for women and at least 38 grams per day for men. One cup (245 grams) of canned pumpkin contains about 7 grams of fiber. The type of soluble fiber found in pumpkins can also help keep bowel movements regular.
How to Add Pumpkin to Your Diet
Here are a few ideas to incorporate pumpkin into your diet this fall, without the added sugar and saturated fat that comes from a pumpkin spice latte.
- Incorporate it into a fall pumpkin soup
- Blend it into a pumpkin spice smoothie
- Try a pumpkin pasta dish
- Add a scoop of pumpkin puree to warm oatmeal with cinnamon
If cooking pumpkins from scratch, be sure to use small pie pumpkins, not the large pumpkins used to carve jack-o-lanterns. If you want a more convenient canned option, choose plain pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling, for your next recipe.