Connecting to Health

A Health and Wellness Blog

Back to Blog Home

November 7, 2016

The Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

by Amanda MacMillan

Pumpkin is everywhere these days -- in the grocery story, at the farmers market, maybe even on your front porch. So here’s a radical thought: Why not eat it? (But not the sad-looking jack-o-lantern on your porch, for reasons we’ll get to later.)

“There so many good reasons to eat pumpkin,” says Jessica Palumbo, a registered dietitian at Glen Cove Hospital. “It’s low in calories, and a good source of antioxidants and important minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, copper and zinc.” Equally important, says Palumbo, is that pumpkin is rich in fiber -- which means it can help with weight control and heart health.

Don’t like pumpkin pie? No problem. There are plenty of other delicious dishes and snacks to make with this squash. Just don’t grab the pumpkin you carved for Halloween -- after all, you wouldn’t chop up a zucchini, leave it out for a week or so, and then turn it into dinner. Besides, the decorative version isn’t the best choice for eating purposes, anyway. Instead, try the smaller “sugar” pumpkins, which aren’t as stringy and watery as the bigger ones. Or use canned pumpkin -- it’s packed with nutrients and requires no prep at all.

Here are a few of Palumbo’s favorite ways to get pumpkin on your menu:

Roast the seeds: One ounce of roast pumpkin seeds has 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of filling, heart-healthy fiber. That makes this a great snack to grab, considering that most Americans don’t get anywhere near the recommended amount of fiber each day. After scooping the seeds from your pumpkin, simply rinse and dry, sprinkle with olive oil, and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes at 325 degrees, and season as preferred. “I like to use cinnamon and nutmeg, but some people like them spicier,” says Palumbo.  

Add it to oatmeal: Chunks of savory roast pumpkin can add surprising but satisfying flavor to a boring breakfast staple. Add some cinnamon and maple syrup for sweetness, and top with pumpkin seeds for a tasty crunch.

Stir it into soups and smoothies: One cup of pumpkin puree is only 80 calories, but has 7 grams of fiber. You can roast the flesh of a whole pumpkin and puree it with a blender or food processor, or opt for the easier, canned version -- either way, the flavor is mild enough that you can use it to thicken up smoothies, soups and chili all season long. It’s a waistline-friendly, heart-healthy addition that will make your meal more satisfying!