By Lauren Salkeld
‘Tis the season for pumpkin spiced lattes, but your morning brew isn’t the only way to enjoy everyone’s favorite fall gourd. With its velvety texture and mild sweetness, pumpkin adds flavor and a nutritional boost to everything. In fact, when you consider pumpkin’s nutritional profile, you really should be incorporating it into more meals and snacks.
Pumpkins, as you’ve probably noticed, are a lovely shade of orange, and while that beautiful color is attractive, it also indicates high levels of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Diets rich in beta-carotene are believed to reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, as well as offering protection against heart disease. Pumpkin is also a good source of fiber, and is rich in nutrients, including potassium, iron, and manganese. Plus, it’s notable for what it lacks—calories. One ½ cup serving tops out at about 50 calories, which makes pumpkin a perfect high-nutrient, low-calorie food to add to your favorite fall recipes.
When in season, fresh pumpkin is an option—but using it does require roasting, puréeing, and draining, so if it’s convenience you’re looking for, canned pumpkin can’t be beat. And if you buy 100% pure pumpkin purée, there’s little to no nutritional difference. When shopping for canned, check the label and be sure you’re getting 100% pure pumpkin with no added salt. Also avoid pumpkin pie filling, which is loaded with extra ingredients and not nearly as healthy as plain purée.
In the kitchen, pumpkin’s possibilities are just about limitless. Thanks to its mild sweetness and relatively neutral flavor profile, pumpkin pairs with a wide range of ingredients, and can be incorporated into myriad dishes, from pancakes and smoothies to pastas and soups. For six easy ways to add pumpkin to your next meal, read on:
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes: Adding pumpkin to pancake batter makes for moist, flavor-packed flapjacks.
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal: Enjoy the flavor of pumpkin pie in one healthy breakfast bowl.
Pumpkin and Sage Soup: When temperatures drop, warm up to fall with this simple yet hearty vegetable soup.
One-Pot Pumpkin Pasta with Parmesan and Kale: Unexpected and a snap to throw together, this pasta is a weeknight supper solution.
Pumpkin and Coconut Spiced Smoothie: Ditch the latte and get your pumpkin spiced fix in a healthier package.
Chocolate, Pumpkin, and Peanut Butter Energy Balls: Gear up for the gym with these pumpkin-flavored handheld treats.