Crave Real Pumpkin to Do Your Fall Body Good

10.31.2015 • Food


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31ST, 2015

Yeah, yeah, yeah it’s pumpkin season. The season formerly known as autumn has taken over almost every facet of our lives.

In the last five years there hasn’t just been “noticeable growth” for the pumpkin spice industry, there’s been a sonic boom of popularity for this otherwise basic blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, according to McCormick’s recipe. 

Is all of this gourd-love doing us any good? Only if you’re actually eating real pumpkin.

crave-real-pumpkin

Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, owner of BetterThanDieting.com and the California Avocado ambassador, heralds the many benefits real pumpkin offers. She says pumpkin is:

  • Rich in vitamin A, which promotes skin and vision health, “particularly night vision and in dim lights.” 
  • Good source of potassium, something 97 percent of us don’t get enough of. Note that one cup of pumpkin has more potassium than a banana!
  • Rich in tryptophan (yes, the amino acid in turkey), which creates a sense of soothing and calmness. 
  • Excellent source of fiber, with three grams in a cup (49 calories). Pumpkin can “dilute calories in other things like richer foods – sauces, macaroni and cheese. It adds volume and value without adding calories.”

If you’re eating the pumpkin-flavored lattes, cookies, yogurts, donuts and other “seasonal” treats, as opposed to eating whole pumpkin, you’re not reaping any of these healthful benefits. 

“It’s important to not just look at the pumpkin, but look at the whole profile of the food you’re eating,” suggested Bonnie, who explained that the pumpkin cookies and candies may conjure that comfortable pumpkin feeling but then lead to discomfort after you’ve eaten it. The reason being these fake pumpkin products, relying more on the spice flavor than any actual pumpkin, are loaded with sugar and fat to make the flavor appealing. Thus, everything from Oreos to Pringles are bestowed a health halo because they write pumpkin on the label. 

If you really crave that autumnal pumpkin flavor and experience, Bonnie suggests enjoying the real thing! Her Pumpkin Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds is a delicious example of how to enjoy all of that pumpkin goodness without the halo hype.

A few other ideas include: 

  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Swirl into macaroni and cheese
  • Real pumpkin pie
  • Mixed with mashed potatoes, or just do mashed pumpkin
  • Sauces, nice beautiful creamy sauce for pasta or for a chicken dish
  • Cream with mashed white beans for a delicious chicken topping
  • Add to soups
  • Starbucks-style Pumpkin Spice Latte with Real Pumpkin

The most important message Bonnie can deliver about pumpkin? “You don’t have to wait until fall to enjoy it,” she says. “Just like turkey, which has really been typecast, it’s available all year long.” She recommends ignoring the marketing-imparted season for pumpkin, and other healthful foods like turkey, and just enjoy the versatility that they offer all year long.