Although the temps are still pretty warm here in North Texas, it's beginning to feel like fall. And with that, comes the star player of the season: Pumpkin. Pumpkin spice--a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves--gets most of the attention, but the fruit itself should take center stage for its nutritional content and potential health benefits.
To start with, pumpkin is a squash. It's a winter squash, just like butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squashes. It's native to North America and is one of the oldest plants to be domesticated. We've been eating pumpkins for thousands of years! And with good reason: these hearty fruits are planted in the summer and harvested in the fall and have a long shelf life, making it a great food source for the winter months when there are few other fruits in season.
Pumpkin also has many health benefits thanks to its fibrous meat and high protein seeds. Some of the benefits of pumpkin include:
1. It's low calorie. A cup of pumpkin only has 30 calories making it a great side to your meals.
2. Pumpkin seeds are packed with protein and fiber. One ounce of pumpkin seeds have 8 grams of protein!
3. A cup of pumpkin contains more than the daily recommended amount of Vitamin A. Vitamin A contributes to healthy vision, growth, and immune systems.
4. The fiber found in pumpkin contributes to healthy digestion. In addition, pumpkin seeds contain a good amount of zinc, which also helps with the digestive process.
5. Fiber also helps keep you full, helps with blood sugar regulation, and increases energy.
Pumpkin has so many benefits--and tastes great too! A quick internet search will point you to many pumpkin-based recipes. Just remember, when buying canned pumpkin, make sure it says "pure pumpkin" and not "pumpkin pie filling", which includes added sugars and other ingredients. Have a great fall and try adding a few new pumpkin recipes!