2 Your Health “Here is why you should pick and eat pumpkin”

Candid scene of parents and children drawing on pumpkin with marker for Halloween
Most children enjoy a trip to the pumpkin patch and picking out the perfect pumpkin for their jack-o-lantern.

But according to Jen Willoughby, Registered Dietician, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, pumpkins can also pack a nutritional punch.

“Pumpkin has a lot of fiber in it,” said Willoughby. ”A cup of regular pumpkin or pureed pumpkin has three grams of fiber and not that many calories. Many kids are short on fiber, so if we can get them to eat more pumpkin, that’s a great way to help them out.” 

Willoughby said pumpkin also has beta-carotene - it’s what gives the pumpkin its orange color. 

After eating pumpkin, the beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A, which children need to help maintain their eye sight.

And pumpkin also has potassium, which is important for blood pressure control and muscle recovery.

But, Willoughby said it’s important to be able to recognize the difference between real pumpkin and imposters.

“Pumpkin products in the store, unfortunately, aren’t the same as pumpkin itself,” said Willoughby.  “Now some of them are, but you have to be careful and you have to look at the ingredient list and see if there’s pumpkin flavor, or if there’s pumpkin in it.”

She said pumpkin can also be used in the kitchen by swapping the oil and butter in recipes for pureed pumpkin – it has the same texture and consistency, but more health benefits.

Willoughby said it’s important, though, to be sure to use actual pureed pumpkin and not pumpkin pie mix.

“Pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie mix – they look the same, but they’re not the same,” said Willoughby. “Pumpkin pie mix already has sugar and other things added to it, so if you’re baking, you want to be sure just to get the plain pumpkin puree.” 

Willoughby said pumpkin puree can also be added to oatmeal, smoothies and even yogurt for an extra added flavor boost.

And don’t throw away those pumpkin seeds – they’re full of fiber and healthy fats and can be roasted after carving jack-o-lanterns.

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