Pumpkins aren’t just for carving

The pumpkin’s claims to fame are mostly limited to jack-o’-lanterns and pie. But it has a lot of unrecognized potential — at least nutritionally.

“It would be nice if people would start using pumpkins for more than a dessert or a craft,” says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

According to botanists, pumpkins are technically a fruit. They are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes some 95 species including melons, cucumbers, and squash. (Yes, cucumbers and squash are fruits, too.) But when it comes to cooking, pumpkins are typically used more like a vegetable.

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The soft flesh of the pumpkin is high in vitamin A and potassium, and contains 3 grams of fiber per cup when cooked, says Fung. It’s also low in calories and has no fat and no sodium. An added benefit of pumpkins: they are rich in beta carotene, which helps to give pumpkins, like carrots, their vibrant orange color, says Fung. Beta carotene is an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A, which may help preserve the health of your eyes, lungs, and heart and potentially reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, including colon cancer.

The pumpkin seeds inside have a completely different set of nutritional benefits. They’re rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as well as protein and vitamin E, says Fung. Pumpkin seeds are also a valuable source of magnesium, which can help to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.

You can eat pumpkin seeds with the shells on or off. And if you’re not interested in taking the time to pry the shells yourself, look for pepitas, which are shelled pumpkin seeds, in your local grocery store.

Did you know?Illinois grows more pumpkins than any other state.It takes 110 days for a typical carving pumpkin to be full grown for Halloween.Historians think pumpkins first grew 7,500 years ago in Central America.The name pumpkin is derived from the Greek word pepon, which translates to “large melon.”You can eat the flowers off the pumpkin vine, as well as the fruit.It was once thought that pumpkins were a cure for snake bites. We recommend a visit to the emergency department instead.

Picking your pumpkin

When you’re shopping for a pumpkin to eat, look for sugar pumpkins. Harvard nutrition experts say they are less stringy than the type of pumpkins most commonly used for seasonal fall display.

If wrestling with a whole pumpkin to scoop out the flesh and seeds sounds too labor intensive, canned pumpkin is a good — but slightly less preferable — option, says Fung.

“Fresh may be better, because in order to can things, you have to heat and sterilize them,” she says. This process may change the nutritional value. But canned pumpkin, provided it doesn’t have any added ingredients, is still a good source of fiber and nutrients.

Try a new recipeStumped about how to incorporate pumpkin into your fall menu? Here’s an easy pumpkin soup to try from the USDA.Pumpkin and bean soupIngredients1 can white beansProtect yourself from the damage of chronic inflammation.Science has proven that chronic, low-grade inflammation can turn into a silent killer that contributes to cardiovas­cular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. Get simple tips to fight inflammation and stay healthy — from Harvard Medical School experts.

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 cup water

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

1 1/2 cups apple juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice, or ginger

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Blend white beans, onion, and water with a potato masher or blender till smooth.
  2. In a large pot, combine the pumpkin, juice, cinnamon, nutmeg (or other spice), black pepper, and salt. Stir.
  3. Stir the blended bean mix into the pot.
  4. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until warmed through.

Looking for more recipes to try? The USDA has a number of great links to information and pumpkin recipes on its site at https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide/pumpkin.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that yu may fear the Lord your God forever.” More verses: Psalm 93:1-4 Jeremiah 10:6
Power » Divine power over nature exhibited by Christ, general examples of » The sea controlled
Job 26:10
“He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters At the boundary of light and darkness.
Job 38:8
“Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
Job 38:11
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’?
Psalm 33:7
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Psalm 104:9
You set a boundary that they may not pass over, So that they will not return to cover the earth.
More verses: Proverbs 8:29 Jeremiah 5:22
Power » Spiritual, general references to » Fills life with healing influences
1 Thessalonians 1:5
for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

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