14016 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • The Great Pumpkin

    IMAGE Linus was a kid way ahead of his time, at least nutritionally speaking. He must have known that the Great Pumpkin brought more than toys for good children. Vitamin A, beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, and lots of flavor—these are the real gifts the pumpkin brings.

    As American as Pumpkin Pie

    Long before Linus began his yearly Halloween vigil in the pumpkin patch, this orange vegetable was well-known and loved. It was one of the first foods the Native Americans introduced to the colonists and it quickly became a staple of the Thanksgiving meal. It was so loved that one early Connecticut colony delayed Thanksgiving because the molasses needed to make pumpkin pie wasn't readily available.

    More Than a Pretty Pie

    The pumpkin is a member of the gourd family, which also includes watermelon, cucumber, muskmelon, and squash. The pumpkin is most similar to squash and is often classified as a winter squash.
    Being a brightly colored vegetable, the pumpkin is rich in many healthful nutrients, and low in fat and calories. It is especially lauded among nutritionists for its hefty doses of the antioxidants vitamin A and beta-carotene. The pumpkin's seeds, called pepitas, are a good source of unsaturated fatty acids, protein, magnesium, phosphorous, and the vitamins E, C, and A. The following table outlines pumpkin's nutrient content:
    Food, amount Calories Vitamin A Potassium (mg) Vitamin C (mg) Fiber (g)
    Fresh pumpkin, boiled, 1 cup 48 264 RE; 2640 IU 562 12 2.6
    Canned pumpkin, 1 cup 82 5382 RE; 53816 IU 502 10 7

    Picking Pumpkins

    The patches are full of pumpkins from September to November. There is quite a variety to choose from, with some weighing in at well over 100 pounds. If you're just planning to carve a scary face, go for the "field" pumpkins. These have the look we all envision when we think of pumpkins—bright orange in color, medium-to-large in size, and a relatively thin stem. This type is edible, but not nearly as tasty as the others. (Never cook and eat a pumpkin that has been carved. Bacteria can easily grow in the carved flesh.)
    The best picks for cooking and baking are the "pie," "sugar," "milk," and "cheese" varieties. These are typically smaller in size (usually weighing about 3 pounds), heavier, and have a thicker stem, as compared with the field pumpkin. On the inside, these eating pumpkins have a smaller seed cavity, more flesh, and are less stringy. They cook into sweeter, juicier, and more tender treats.
    As you trudge through the patch, choose pumpkins that are free from blemishes and feel heavy for their size. A ripe pumpkin should have tough skin. To determine this, apply gentle pressure with your fingernail. If you can make a mark, the pumpkin isn't ready for cooking.

    Pumpkin in Your Pantry

    Keep whole pumpkins at room temperature for up to a month or in the refrigerator for up to three months. Once it's been cooked, though, store fresh, cooked pumpkin in the refrigerator for no more than five days, or in the freezer for up to six months.
    Canned pumpkin is a great year-round option. It's fast, easy, and has all the nutrients of fresh pumpkin. Some studies have found that canned pumpkin has even higher levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene than fresh pumpkin.

    Pumpkin on Your Plate

    Pumpkin can be cooked by the same methods you use to cook other winter squash. To prepare, use a cleaver or very large knife to split the pumpkin in half or into wedges. Then scoop out the seeds and string. But don't throw out those seeds—rinse them, put them on a cookie sheet, and roast at a low temperature in the oven for a few minutes. Stir them often to avoid burning. Roasted pumpkin seeds can be eaten as snacks, or used in place of pine nuts. Many pumpkin seeds have shells. You can remove these if you wish, but many people enjoy eating pumpkin seed shells and benefit from the extra fiber they contain.
    Once you've cut the pumpkin, a simple way to cook it is to place the pieces cut-side down in a baking dish with a ¼ inch of water. Bake at 350°F (177°C) until tender enough to pierce with a fork—about 45 minutes. To make pumpkin puree, let the pumpkin cool, peel off the skin with a paring knife, and use a food processor or a potato masher to puree. One pound of pumpkin will make about one cup of puree.
    Instead of pureeing, you can turn the pieces right side up, and season with margarine or butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, or nutmeg, or stuff with a filling. Or, scoop out the cooked pumpkin and use in a casserole or other dish. There are so many more uses for the pumpkin!


    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org

    The American Gourd Society http://www.americangourdsociety.org


    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.