What comes to mind when you think of fall? Probably cooling temperatures, changing leaves, Halloween, and of course, pumpkins! Whether you love to pick them, paint them, carve them or just admire them, pumpkins are a popular fall crop. And not only are they pretty to look at and fun for activities, but they also offer many nutritional benefits.
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Did you know that pumpkin is a healthy food? The orange gourds are nutrient-dense, high in fiber and low in calories. Pumpkin may be best known for its high content of beta-carotene, the pigment that gives pumpkins their orange color. When you eat foods that contain beta-carotene, your body converts it into vitamin A — and 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin provides more than 200% of most people's recommended daily intake. Pumpkins are also a good source of potassium and vitamin C, not to mention the fiber content — just 1 cup of canned pumpkin contains 7 grams of fiber! That's more than what you would get from two slices of whole-grain bread.
To get all these dietary benefits, avoid pumpkin pie mix, because the pre-packaged mixes contain added sugar and syrups. Stick to prepping your own whole pumpkin, or purchasing canned versions where pumpkin is the only ingredient listed.
For extra nutrition, don’t throw out the seeds! They’re the best part. Like many types of seeds, pumpkin seeds pack a big nutritional punch. Shelled pumpkin seeds contain 7 grams of dietary fiber per ounce. This fiber helps keep you fuller for longer, which can reduce hunger and lower calorie intake. Pumpkin seeds are also a natural source of L-tryptophan, an amino acid that may improve mood and may even be effective against depression.
There are endless ways to incorporate pumpkin into your diet — from pancakes, custards and whole-grain muffins to homemade savory dishes. Get started with one of these delicious and nutritious recipes from the American Institute for Cancer Research: