Let’s get a few things out of the way about pumpkins.
First, yes, they’re fruits, not vegetables.
Second, anything that’s added to 50 grams of sugar, as is the case with a pumpkin spice latte (PSL), is not healthy. Even a broccoli smoothie (ew) wouldn’t be considered healthy if it had 50 grams of sugar added to it.
And third, it doesn’t take a nutrition degree to know that pie of any kind, pumpkin included isn’t healthy. Although in defense of pumpkin pie, one could argue that it’s healthier than drinking a 16 oz PSL. One slice contains half the amount of sugar as a PSL.
Clearly, people love their pumpkins, and not just for Halloween. From a culinary perspective, pumpkins offer a savory, nutrient-dense, hearty taste. It’s no wonder that if you do a search for “Miracle Noodle pumpkin,” while “pumpkin spice low-carb noodles” aren’t yet on the drawing board, there are plenty of recipes, including risotto, coconut curry and fettucini alfredo.
Why Are Pumpkins Good For You?
Assuming you’re not indulging in pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin pie, consuming a cornucopia of pumpkin can contribute to optimal health. (Looking for an indulgent pumpkin dessert you don’t have to feel guilty about? Then check out this one for pumpkin donut holes.)
Pumpkins help you feel full and they hardly have any impact on your blood sugar levels. In fact, out of a score of 250, pumpkin has a glycemic load of only 3. That’s, in part, because approximately 90% of the fruit is water. And the other 10% represents a who’s who of superfood all-star nutrients.
In particular, pumpkin is loaded with the class of antioxidants known as carotenoids. There are three carotenoids that you’ve probably heard of, all of which are essential to graceful aging: beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A; zeaxanthin, and lutein. These three antioxidants are naturally found in eye tissue, therefore, by consuming foods rich in these carotenoids, you’re supporting eye health and vision.
One cup of pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin) contains the following nutrient data:
- Vitamin A: 763% - Eye and vision health, bone formation, etc.
- Vitamin K: 49% - Wound healing, blood clotting.
- Vitamin C: 17% - Immune function, iron absorption, etc.
- Vitamin E: 13% - Antioxidant that’s beneficial for skin health.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 10% - Assists in cellular energy and metabolism.
- Iron: 20%
- Manganese: 18%
- Magnesium: 14%
- Potassium: 14%
- Copper: 13%
There’s also 7 grams of fiber (nearly a third of your daily requirement) in one cup of pumpkin. The only negative going for it is that it contains 8 grams of sugar. But that’s 6 grams less than a medium ripe banana. Anyhow, even with 8 grams of sugar, you can see that eating pumpkin is like taking a multivitamin. The fruit contains several other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients not listed above.
Vegan Vitamin A
Along with sweet potato, spinach and carrots, pumpkin contains some of the highest levels of pro-vitamin A (the precursor to vitamin A) in the plant kingdom. However, pro-vitamin A isn’t effectively converted into the usable form of vitamin A. And that’s what makes pumpkin such an ideal vegan source, because some of that 763% pro-vitamin A recommended daily value will convert into vitamin A.
It’s important to note that while pumpkin contains a bevy of all-star phytonutrients such as the carotenoids lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, these compounds are not converted into vitamin A.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat pumpkin. Some of the plant-based vitamin A will indeed convert into active vitamin A. Eating dark leafy greens (or consuming them in a veggie juice) will also ensure that vegan get the required amount of active vitamin A.
Healthy Pumpkin Snacks
If you’re trying to keep your blood sugar level steady and your insulin levels low, try to avoid snacking altogether. But for those times when a snack is vital, eat some pumpkin seeds. Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds, just like the fruit from which they come from, are an A-Z high-nutrient density smorgasboard.
Rich in both mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, the seeds from this fruit are incredibly rich in protein (12 grams per cup), fiber (12 grams) and magnesium (nearly 50% daily value), a mineral which relaxes muscles and blood vessels.
So next time you’re craving a PSL, sprinkle some seeds in your hands instead.