Halloween is right around the corner, and fall is in full-swing. And there are pumpkins everywhere to prove it! Jack-o-lanterns, decorations, pumpkin-flavored drinks, dishes, candles and scents… You won’t go very far without seeing or smelling that characteristic orange squash.
The most surprising thing about pumpkins, though, is their nutritional benefits fly way under the radar. Pumpkins are actually incredibly good for you! So, enjoy carving your annual jack-o-lantern, or lighting a fragrant and festive candle on a quiet night in… But keep reading if you want to learn more about the benefits of pumpkin, and how you can transform your favorite Halloween decoration into a delicious and healthy snack!
Pumpkins are Packed with Vitamin A
Pumpkin is full of nutrients, but it is absolutely packed with vitamin A. A single serving (about 1 cup) offers 197% of your RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). Vitamin A is a vital nutrient – it is important in maintaining your eye health, reproductive health, and immune function. 
Vitamin A can be found in a variety of foods, and in different forms. One form of vitamin A, retinol, is found exclusively in animal sources, such as meat and dairy. However, the second form of vitamin A, called provitamin A, comes from plant sources. Provitamin A can actually come from a phytonutrient called beta-carotene (which we will discuss later), and can be converted into vitamin A in the body. Pumpkins are rich in provitamin A, an essential part of human health. Let’s now dig deeper into beta-carotene, because while it is a crucial part of pumpkin’s high vitamin A content, it also has some other powerful benefits. 
As mentioned, beta-carotene is a phytonutrient that we convert to vitamin A in the body. However, it is also a powerful antioxidant found in the yellow, orange, and red fruits and veggies of the world, and pumpkin is no different. 
Antioxidants fight against free radicals, and protect the body against oxidative damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the healthy cells in our bodies in order to stabilize themselves. We accumulate free radicals from environmental exposure to toxins, such as tobacco smoke and UV light, and also as a natural byproduct of our body’s metabolic processes. Beta-carotene, and other antioxidants, protect against these free radicals by stabilizing and neutralizing them, rendering them benign. 
A Low Calorie Superfood
Pumpkin is what you might consider a superfood. It is nutritionally dense, meaning that it has lots of nutrients packed into a low calorie serving – 1 cup of cooked pumpkin has just about 50 calories. This makes it a great and healthy addition to any recipe! 
It is also great because it’s rich in fiber and water, which can help promote satiety, or fullness! Adding pumpkin to your meal will make you feel more satisfied, for longer. Fiber also helps keep you regular and contributes to prevention of heart disease. It’s superfood status is well-deserved!
Don’t Throw Away Those Pumpkin Seeds
Now, you’re probably not going to want to dig into your jack-o-lantern days after it’s been sitting out on the porch. But as you’re preparing your pumpkin for carving, don’t forget to hold on to those seeds! While higher in calories (1 cup packs about 260 caloires), these seeds are very nutritionally dense.  They are high in:
- – Mono- and polyunsaturated fats (the healthier fats) as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids!
- – Protein – 1 serving of pumpkin seeds packs almost 14 grams of protein!
- – Magnesium & zinc – pumpkin seeds are loaded with magnesium and zinc, providing about 60-80% of your RDA for magnesium and 32-43% of your RDA for zinc (depending on age and gender). Both minerals are essential for hundreds of metabolic reactions in your body, so it’s important to fit these into your diet!
- – Antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin E.
- – Fiber, if you’re not impartial to eating the shells along with the seeds. 
Wash them, toss them in oil and a little salt, and roast them in your oven for a delicious snack, or even a great topping to tie together a fresh fall salad!
Ways to Use Pumpkin
There are so many ways to use pumpkin, aside from the obvious choice of pumpkin pie. And while scooping out the seeds and preparing your own squash is great, it can be a lot of work. Canned pumpkin is still a perfectly acceptable and nutritious choice to save time and effort! Here are some ideas for you to fit this delicious squash into your diet:
- – Pumpkin Pancakes
- – Pumpkin Scones
- – Pumpkin Pie (obviously)
- – Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- – Pumpkin Curry
- – Pumpkin Alfredo
- – Pumpkin Ravioli
- – Pumpkin Soup
- – Pumpkin Dog Treats (for your furry friends)
Squash, a Superior Food
While pumpkin is objectively a great addition to your fall lineup, let’s not forget about the rest of the squash family. Squash is a great source of lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and is relatively low in calories. Go out of your comfort zone, and look for ways to incorporate butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, delicata squash, and kabocha squash. There are so many ways to enjoy squash this season, and we hope you find a new favorite recipe to share with your family and friends!
Do you have a favorite pumpkin or squash recipe that you bring to the table every autumn? Send us your recipes at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- “Fooddata Central Search Results.” FoodData Central, https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168448/nutrients
- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/.
- “Understanding Antioxidants.” Harvard Health, 10 Jan. 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-antioxidants.
- “Fooddata Central Search Results.” FoodData Central, https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170556/nutrients