PUMPKIN — Fall’s Mighty Produce
Fall is officially here and as the crisp air hits, we are excited to spend more time in the kitchen and put our stove and oven to a good use. We can’t help but to jump in excitement when pumpkin-everything make its comeback in the grocery stores, so it only seems proper to feature fall’s favorite produce in our blog. As it turns out, not only is pumpkin flavorful and versatile, it’s packed with nutrients and health benefits as well! More the reasons to love this season’s ultimate staple!
One cup (1” cubes, 116 g) of raw pumpkin provides:
- Calories: 30 kcal
- Carbohydrate: 7.5 g
- Fiber: 0.6 g
- Protein: 1.2 g
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Potassium: 394.4 mg (helps manage blood pressure)
- Vitamin A: 197.5% DRI *
- Vitamin C: 17.4% DRI (antioxidant)
* Pumpkin’s bright orange color is a telltale sign that it’s packed with carotene, specifically beta-carotene, a provitamin that is converted to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is famous for its immune-boosting property, as it is also important for eye and skin health.
Pro tip: If you are buying fresh pumpkin (like for Halloween’s festivities), don’t throw away the seeds! Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, and omega-6 fatty acids (6 g in 1 oz), which promote heart health. It is also an excellent source of many minerals and vitamins. For instance, 1 oz serving of pumpkin seeds provides 37% of the RDI for magnesium, 23% RDI for iron, 18% RDI for vitamin K. In addition, pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted to serotonin (hormone that regulates mood balance) and melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Did you know that…?
- Almost all the parts of pumpkin (flesh, leaves, flowers, and seeds) are edible.
- Technically a fruit, pumpkin is nutritionally grouped as a vegetable.
- You can substitute pumpkin for recipes that call for butter or oil in baked goods (one cup pumpkin puree for one cup oil).
Although pumpkin is usually harvested in mid May to early September, it requires some handling and curing before it is available to customers from September to November.
When not in season, opt for canned pumpkin aka pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix as it has added sugar and salt). It is still packed with the nutrients of a fresh pumpkin, such as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.
According to Environmental Working Group, pumpkin is not on the Dirty Dozen list. Thus, it is safe to eat conventionally-grown pumpkin as long as it is properly washed before cooking.
How to pick
For cooking, look for pumpkins that are small, about 4 to 8 pounds, with a dense flesh (it should feel heavy) and smooth texture.
Do not pick up pumpkin by the stem, as it can break off easily.
Store in a cool, dry place. Under optimal condition (50–55°F and 50–70% relative humidity), whole pumpkin will keep for 2–3 months. Once cut, refrigerated pumpkin can be stored for a few days.
Ready to bring fall’s favorite produce to your kitchen? Here’s a few ideas to channel your pumpkin obsession into every meal:
References & Helpful Links:
Beta-carotene and risk of coronary heart disease. A review of observational and intervention studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10554676