The Great Pumpkin

Pumpkins make great carved jack-o-lanterns and are pretty to look at, but did you know that pumpkins are actually fresh vegetables that are loaded with amazing real food nutrition including vitamins and minerals. Most people find them pretty on their porch step but are a bit intimidated to start cutting. . .

So, why should you quit carving jack-o-lantern faces (after Halloween of course) and start creating nutritious pumpkin culinary delights?

1. Pumpkins are extremely low in calories (only 49 calories per cup) but are filled with vitamins and minerals– as a Fort Collins Nutritionist, I refer to this as nutrient-dense. width=

2. One cup of pumpkin packs in 564 mg of potassium which is more potassium than a banana. Potassium helps to maintain the sodium-potassium pump in all of your cells which helps to maintain water balance. This also helps to protect against high blood pressure and a diet high in potassium can help reduce blood pressure if you have hypertension.

3. Sufficient potassium is essential for athletes or those who exercise and sweat a lot. Potassium is an important electrolyte along with calcium and magnesium. Low potassium can lead to muscle cramping and because pumpkin is a great source, its a great veggie for athletes.

4. One cup of pumpkin contains over 2,400 mcg of carotenoids which are great for your eyes. Like carrots, the bright orange color in pumpkins is essential for eye health and great vision long-term.

5. Don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are loaded with phytosterols (about 260 mg per 100 grams) which have an incredibly potent cholesterol lowering action. Carve or cut your pumpkin, save the seeds and either dry them or roast them to get a lot more nutrition bang for the buck from “the great pumpkin”. =)

You’re familiar with pumpkin pie, but have you thought about other ways to enjoy the flavor of this infamous Halloween vegetable? Try preparing it and cooking it like any other winter squash. You can use pumpkin in this Roasted Butternut Squash recipe. Pumpkin is also great in soup (Butternut Squash Apple Soup), cookies, bread, cake, muffins, and all sorts of other delicious pumpkin goodness!

So, break out the giant chef’s knife or cleaver and start cutting, scooping, and baking. Share your recipe ideas, pumpkin tips, or comments below.

Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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