Pumpkins are not just Halloween or Thanksgiving decorations. Along with other winter squash, pumpkin is a nutritious and inexpensive addition to your fall and winter meals. Enjoy roasted or pureed.

1 cup mashed pumpkin provides:

• 49 Calories, 2 gm protein, 3 gm fiber, no fat, no cholesterol

Potential benefits of consuming pumpkin:

• Rich source of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant associated with lower risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes • Good source of potassium for lowering blood pressure

• Vitamin C in pumpkin protects against macular degeneration • Also contains B vitamins, iron and magnesium

• Use cubes in soups and stews; Roast for a delicious side dish

• Pureed pumpkin can be added to sauces, mixed into muffins or pancake batter, or substituted for oil or butter in recipes. Make your own puree or buy canned without added ingredients

• Roast pumpkin seeds for a nutritious snack for the whole familyYour Content Goes Here

Pumpkin: Not Just Decoration

By Stephanie Polizzi, MPH, RDN, DipACLM

This time of year, we begin to see pumpkins in our grocery stores and

markets. Many people consider them more as Halloween or Thanksgiving decorations and less as a nutritious food staple. Along with other winter squash, pumpkin is a delicious and inexpensive addition to a healthy diet.

Sometimes called gourds, winter squash varieties can range from orange to dark green, with ribbed or bumpy skin. The smaller sugar pumpkins are best for eating since they are less stringy than the larger “carving” pumpkins. Compared to their summer cousins, winter squashes like pumpkin have a denser texture that holds up well in soups or stews.

Pumpkin flesh is bright orange, a result of beta carotene, which contributes to the vibrant color. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant known to neutralize free radicals associated with aging and disease. Beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body which helps fight infections and maintain healthy skin. Pumpkin also contains vitamins C and E, antioxidants that work together to protect the immune system, and lutein and zeaxanthin, additional carotenoid antioxidants that protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration.

Besides beta carotene, pumpkin provides 6 B vitamins, and multiple minerals. Potassium is known to help maintain healthy blood pressure and magnesium is important for heartbeat regulation. Other minerals include iron, manganese, and phosphorous. Pumpkin is also low in calories and a good source of dietary fiber, making it a good choice for those trying to manage their weight.

When choosing a pumpkin, knock on the skin. It should be firm and should sound hollow if it is ripe. The hard rinds allow the squash to be stored several months, but also make it challenging to slice. One way is to slice the pumpkin in half and remove seeds (save for later). Then put sliced side down in a pie dish with a little water and microwave about 15 minutes. The skin will slice off easily and you can dice for baking or boiling for your recipes. Or bake pumpkin halves in the skin until soft and scoop out puree.

Pumpkin is not just a great pie filling. Toss cubes into soups and stews or roast for a delicious side dish. Pureed pumpkin can be added to sauces, mixed into muffins or pancake batter, or substituted for oil or butter in recipes. Make your own puree or buy canned without added ingredients like sugar or spices.

The best part about using the whole pumpkin is roasting the pumpkin seeds to make a nutritious snack for the whole family. Rinse or no rinse, the choice is yours (I never rinse mine). Sprinkle with your favorite spices (cinnamon, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, curry, or even just salt) and spread on a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes until crispy.

This Halloween, consider adding pumpkin to your menu planning. The nutrition it provides will fortify your immune system for the winter and the taste will delight your family. Cube, puree and crunch your way to a healthy lifestyle.