By: Lilli Rozanski MS, RDN, LDN, Sports and Fitness Dietitian, Thibodaux
Regional Medical Center
First, just a reminder that pumpkin is a type of
produce, not just a scent in your favorite fall candle or flavoring in your pumpkin
spice latte. Pumpkin has a ton of health benefits to add nutrition to
your diet and boost the taste of pretty much
anything. It complements both sweet and savory foods and is pretty low in calories.
Here are five awesome benefits of pumpkin:
It is high in vitamin A
- Eating pumpkin is good for your eyes! One cup of pumpkin has over 200 percent
of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which is important for eye
health and night vision. Pumpkin’s bright orange color comes from
its high beta-carotene concentration and beta-carotene is a carotenoid
(an antioxidant) and a precursor of vitamin A. Beta-carotene also helps
protect us from the sun's harmful UV rays.
Also packed with Vitamin C
- Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant known for strengthening
the immune system and boosting collagen production. It also improves iron
absorption and studies show it reduces oxidative stress, which can prevent
premature aging. One cup of pumpkin contains 19 percent of the recommended
Can help keep you full
- Pumpkin is high in fiber! One cup of pumpkin has about 7 grams of fiber.
The recommended intake of fiber is between 25-35 grams per day. Fiber
is needed for healthy digestion, it helps to lower cholesterol, and keeps
us fuller for longer.
It is great for your muscles
- Pumpkin also contains magnesium, a mineral that is very important for a
variety of different functions in the body like energy creation, muscle
relaxation, and nervous system regulation. In one cup you get 14 percent
of your daily value.
It has more potassium than a banana
- Pumpkin is high in potassium, a mineral necessary for muscle contraction,
good digestion, water balance, and a healthy blood pressure. As with magnesium,
if you’re active and are depleting electrolytes, like potassium,
it’s even more critical to restore levels. There’s over 500
milligrams of potassium in a cup of canned pumpkin —more than what
you’d get in a large banana.
But what about pumpkin spice?
There is a strange occurrence that happens between Labor Day and Black
Friday. Grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops are suddenly filled
with an influx of pumpkin spice–flavored products. They include
everything from yogurt to cereal to protein bars. But since not all pumpkin
spice products are created equal, here are some guidelines on what to look for:
Choose products that actually have pumpkin as the first or second ingredient.
- For yogurts, ice cream, baked goods, and protein bars it’s a must;
for cereals and spreads, a few ingredients down is okay on occasion. So
long as the first ingredient is a real food and not sugar, you’re
good to go.
Look for as few ingredients and grams of sugar as possible.
- Try to find products with an ingredient list that is short and sweet. You
also want to be able to pronounce all the ingredients! Products with a
single digit of grams of sugar is a good rule to go by. Dairy and fruit
products may contain a little more due to naturally occurring sugar, but
try not to go more than about 12 grams of sugar.
Skip the daily sugary beverages!
Unfortunately that does include the infamous PSL from Starbucks (a medium
has about 50 grams of sugar!). Luckily, there are a few better-for-you
alternatives to satisfy your pumpkin spice craving.
- Try a pumpkin spice creamer. With about 35 calories per tablespoon, you
can get the taste of pumpkin spice with a tablespoon or two added to your coffee.
- Another option is to add low-fat milk, one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice,
½ teaspoon vanilla and one teaspoon sugar/stevia to your brewed coffee!
- Recreate your own PSL Frappuccino! Blend together one medium banana, 1/3
cup canned pumpkin puree, one cup unsweetened milk of your choice (non-fat
or low fat milk, almond, soy, oatmeal), ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie
spice, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Mix and enjoy —
serves two and has just 125 calories per serving.
References available upon request