The pumpkin truly deserves to be honored and enjoyed with its impressive antioxidant properties and diverse culinary applications. Indisputably, the pumpkin is the perfect symbol of fall with a vivacious bold orange colour and a vast compendium of shapes and sizes. It’s perfect for carving out a festive Jack-o-lantern, and most iconic for its beloved pumpkin pie and tasty toasted pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin’s nutritional make-up
Pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse. 1 cup of mashed pumpkin boasts 245% of your daily vitamin A needs. It also has a whopping 564 mg of potassium and 22 mg of magnesium; all with a low caloric cost of 49 calories. Plus, it contains a healthy 3 grams of fibre and 2 grams of protein. The seeds from the pumpkin are equally impressive. 1/3 cup of roasted kernels provides more than 15 grams of protein, 4 mg of iron and nearly your full daily needs for magnesium.
Pumpkin spiced… everything
Unfortunately, this time of year the world tends to go a bit overboard when it comes to things “pumpkin spiced”. Everywhere you look there are tempting pumpkin-themed treats. However simply attaching the words “pumpkin” or “pumpkin spiced” to any food does not attribute these nutritional benefits or a “pumpkin health halo”. As a matter of fact, too often “pumpkin spice” trends covet minimal to no real pumpkin nutritional gems. Instead, they provide an abundance of unwanted sugar, calories and saturated fats.
The strongest example of this is a certain coffee chain’s famous pumpkin spiced latte. A venti size of this tasty treat, made with a pumpkin spice sauce, can host nearly 500 calories, 64 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of saturated fat. Add a pumpkin scone to that latte and you’ve nearly doubled those numbers. In total this comes close to a 1000 calorie snack, with 19 grams of saturated fats and 107 grams of sugars (27 teaspoons!!!). You can find similar calorie hits just about everywhere – pumpkin muffins, ice cream, cookies… the list goes on.
Making pumpkin spiced healthier
There is some hope: you can often make some simple swaps to your coffee or latte order to reduce calories and sugar. Examples include:
- Asking for no-whip or light whip
- Asking for less pumps of syrup (half sweet or just one pump)
- Holding the syrup all together and opting for a plain latte with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice topping. That tasty sprinkle of spice blend on top of the beverage is often just a combination of natural spices. Spices which often have some antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, plus little-to-no added sugars.
In addition to latte calorie-swaps, there are many other ways to embrace the season and enjoy the variety that pumpkins have to offer. Make a tasty stew, such as this Instant Pot Moroccan Pumpkin Chickpea Stew, a flavorful hearty soup, or a healthier home-baked pumpkin loaf, muffin or scone (with whole ingredients and less added sugars). You can also enjoy pumpkin seeds every day to add a powerhouse of nutrition to your routine.
As for everything else “pumpkin spiced”, be mindful of your choices. Reserve those tasty, tempting treats for special occasions, or share them with friends on a crisp fall day.