It’s late October. If fall was unseasonably late in your area (like it was in Kansas City) then you’re probably thrilled that the temperatures have started cooling down. “Scarf weather” is here, you’ve probably pulled your winter clothes out of their summer hiding places and, if you’re anything like me, you’ve invested your attention into “cold weather foods.” Soup, chili, and a whole lot of pumpkin-themed dishes.
Raise your hands if you’ve had at least one pumpkin spice latte this fall. Or a pumpkin muffin. Or a pumpkin bagel or donut or other baked good.
See? Exactly. Pumpkin’s everywhere. So why not talk about its nutritional value and where it comes from?
Enter the Farming and Fitness post about pumpkins. First, I’ll discuss the nutritional benefits of pumpkins, and then give some background on where they come from and how they’re grown!
A serving (one cup) of pumpkin (just the flesh, not the seeds or shell) with no sugar added has 30 calories. This low-calorie serving of tasty orange goodness also yields*:
- Potassium. Potassium is a mineral and an electrolyte, which conducts electricity within the body. Potassium is vital to overall body health, but it also helps manage blood pressure. (In fact, potassium tends to have the opposite effect of sodium.) One serving of pumpkin has 11% of your daily potassium.
- Fiber. This particular food is actually fairly low in fiber, but when you look at the amount of calories it has it’s a fair trade-off. 30 calories for 2% of your daily fiber isn’t a bad exchange, in my opinion.
- Vitamin A. This vitamin is required for healthy eyesight. In fact, Vitamin A is most commonly found in orange or yellow foods (like carrots and pumpkins). Vitamin A is also the nutrient that has been added Golden Rice, which was breed to help fight sight loss due to malnutrition in poverty-stricken areas. A serving of pumpkin will give you plenty of Vitamin A — 197%, to be exact!
- Vitamin C. If you’ve ever had a cold, you’ve probably been told to take Vitamin C. This vitamin is required for healthy immune function, among other benefits. A single 30 calorie serving of pumpkin will provide 17% of your daily Vitamin C.
One of the “traps” of pumpkin is that we often like to enjoy it in sweet treats, so keep in mind that while there may be vitamins and minerals in some of those treats, don’t forget that pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pie and pumpkin bars and pumpkin brownies can be very rich in fat and may impact the pumpkin’s natural nutritional benefit.
However, that said, using pumpkin to lower the calories in desserts is always a favorite tactic of mine! You can swap canned pumpkin for the oil and eggs in a box of brownies (I still love you, oil and eggs!) for a festive fall dessert with a different nutritional balance.
So, where and how do pumpkins grow?
For starters, I’m proud to be a native of one of the top pumpkin states in the US! Illinois is the top producer for process pumpkins in the country — process pumpkins are the sort of pumpkins that are grown for canning. If you go to the grocery store and buy a can of pumpkin (either pre-seasoned pie filling or raw pumpkin) then there is more than a 90% chance that pumpkin came from Illinois.
When trying to find resources on how pumpkins are grown, I found this video which was filmed in Mortin, IL, the “Pumpkin Capital of the World:”
The video explains far better than I could have! For more information and trivia about pumpkins, you can see the University of Illinois Extension’s page about it here.
So, to celebrate the season, what’s your current favorite pumpkin food item? Savory or sweet, healthy or maybe of the more sugary persuasion, they’re all fair game in my book. (And I’ll love you forever if you share the recipe too!)
* All serving suggestions and related numbers are based on the USDA’s recommendations for a 2,000 calorie diet. These recommendations are more guidelines than anything, since each one of us has unique dietary needs.