Pumpkin: It’s not just for jack o’ lanterns any more

October 2, 2020

It’s officially fall, and Halloween is approaching. It’s pumpkin season! Pumpkin popularity has escalated far beyond the simple jack o’ lantern or holiday pie into a highly sought-after flavor for beverages, breakfast cereals, and all varieties of snacks.

The Food Bank of Delaware’s community nutrition educators know that in addition to being decorative and tasty, pumpkin itself – not the syrupy flavoring – is quite nutritious and versatile. Pumpkin is actually a variety of winter squash cultivated in various sizes and colors; some are more decorative than nutritious. Canned pumpkin, the easiest to use in food preparation, is inexpensive and typically readily available. We usually put a can of pumpkin in Thanksgiving food boxes so our clients can prepare fresh pumpkin pie.

If it’s a fresh pumpkin you want, stop by the Food Bank of Delaware’s farm stand in Newark

Alicia Vogel, one of the Food Bank’s Community Nutrition Educators, says that pumpkin is low in calories, fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free, high in vitamin A, and a good source of vitamin K.  In fact, her research from the University of Illinois shows that it’s the pumpkins bright orange color coloring indicates that it is loaded with an important antioxidant called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is one of the plant carotenoids converted to vitamin A in the body. Research has shown that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene, such as pumpkin may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease. In addition, beta-carotene also protects against other diseases as well as signs of aging.

Pumpkin is available fresh and canned.

If selecting fresh pumpkins, choose pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size.

So, what can you do with pumpkin besides bake a pie? Vogel and WIC Education Specialist Chong Yi shared some easy-to-prepare, client-tested pumpkin recipes that are delicious and nutritious.

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