Updated: Oct 9
Nutrition Pathway, Cheryl Corry, RD, is pleased to introduce our guest blogger, dietetic intern, Danielle. Danielle is completing her Diploma of Dietetic Education and Practical Training at Brescia University College and her dietetic internship at Hamilton Health Sciences. Welcome to our blog Danielle!
Hello September! While the beginning of fall isn’t technically until September 22nd, going from August to September always feels a bit like the unofficial season change.
September is probably one of my favourite months. I loved the excitement of back to school, the weather becoming a little cooler and of course, continuing to eat all of the fresh and locally grown produce Ontario has to offer. I think it is easy to forget how lucky we are to live in southern Ontario. Our climate, geography and soil allow farmers and producers to grow high quality produce here.
I don’t know about you, but when I think autumn, I automatically think of hearty root vegetables like garlic, beets, potatoes, squash and of course PUMPKINS! Pumpkin-spice EVERYTHING has exploded in recent years. I have to admit that I was one of those people craving a fall-drink and bee-lined for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte or “PSL” when I heard they were back. From lattes to beer to baked goods, consumers love the idea of being able to gobble up all things pumpkin in the fall. That begs the question, do you know what the benefits of pumpkins actually are? Are they worth the hype?
Pumpkins are very nutrient-dense members of the winter squash family. As far as nutritional value goes, in 1 cup of cooked pumpkin “flesh” you can find:
- 12 grams of carbohydrates -great for diabetics!
- 3 grams of fibre
- 2 grams of protein
- Less than 50 calories in a cup!
One of my favourite parts of the pumpkin are the seeds. Also known as “pepitas”, you can find a high content of heart-healthy fats (mono and poly-unsaturated) in addition to protein, fibre and vitamins and minerals.
As a whole, pumpkins contain a well-rounded mixture of vitamins and minerals. Specifically, pumpkins are very high in beta-carotene and lutein, hence the orange and yellow colours…think the same Vitamin A properties as carrots! Beta-carotene can reduce the risk of certain types of cancers including breast, ovarian and prostate and increased lutein intake has been shown to reduce risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (1). They are also particularly high in potassium; one cup contains 1/8 of your daily recommended intake (1). Other notable micro-mentions include B vitamins, vitamins C and E, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc…WOW!
Some studies have shown pumpkins to be anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and also have cancer fighting properties (2). In addition, they have also exhibited positive impact in lowering both blood sugars and blood pressure (2). Who knew the insides of your Jack-O-Lantern had so much more to offer!?
So…now that you know what the benefits are, what can you do to increase your intake of pumpkin?
The good news is there are SO many ways to make use of your pumpkins and as they are relatively cheap, you can get a great bang for your buck. Foodland Ontario recommends Small Sugar, Spooky, Early Cheyenne Pie as the best pumpkins to use for eating. When picking a pumpkin to eat, they should feel heavy for their size. If you keep them uncarved in a cool, dark place, they can last for months. Once they have been cut, make sure to wrap and refrigerate or freeze promptly.
What are the most common ways that you can use your pumpkin? Here are some ideas…
- Cooked to be added into soups, stews, chilis for flavour and texture
- Cooked pumpkin can also be made into purees that can also be used as the base for soups, waffles, pancakes, muffins, quick breads or in pastas (like ravioli)
- As a side dish: roasted, baked, grilled, boiled, steamed or microwaved
- Seeds can be roasted for a crunchy and healthy snack or can be used in granolas or crackers
- In baked goods such as pies, cakes, bars, breads, etc.
- Syrups, jams, jellies, spreads, candies
- Pumpkin seed powders have been created as thickeners for gravies and other condiments
Hopefully this gives you a starting point with how to incorporate some more pumpkin into your fall dishes. One thing to remember when you are out and about ordering pumpkin-based drinks from your favourite cafes is that they are often VERY high in sugar. For example, a standard tall PSL from Starbucks (made with 2% milk and whipped cream) has 300 calories, 39 grams of sugar, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of protein and 11 grams of fat. While I am not saying to not enjoy these delicious drinks, I am recommending that you enjoy them in moderation or as a treat. Cafes and coffee chains are often more than happy to help you modify your order to cut down on some of the calories, for example, less or no whipped cream, fewer pumps of their pumpkin sauce, smaller serving size, etc.
Better yet, try to make one of these at home! Believe me, I scoured the internet for some healthier versions of the famous PSL. The recipe I have linked in this post takes less than 5 minutes to make and is 79 calories, 13 grams of sugar, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of fat. Sugar content could be further cut
cut down with the elimination of maple syrup or honey for a calorie-free sweetener.
If you have any questions about fresh Ontario produce and its nutrition facts or how to incorporate more of it into your diet, contact Cheryl Corry, RD for an appointment! Allow yourself to fall for pumpkin spice and everything nice this autumn!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe: https://detoxinista.com/healthier-pumpkin-spice-latte/
1. Healthy ideas for pumpkin eaters: carve out a race in your diet for nutritious pumpkins. (2012, October). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 30(8), 6. https://link-gale-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/apps/doc/A307077489/AONE?u=lond95336&sid=AONE&xid=4626ff0a
2. Kaur, S., Panghal, A., Garg, M. K., Mann, S., Khatkar, S. K., Sharma, P., & Chhikara, N. (2019). Functional and nutraceutical properties of pumpkin – a review. Nutrition & Food Science, 50(2), 384–401. https://doi.org/10.1108/NFS-05-2019-0143