I know fall is officially here when the grocery store aisles turn into pumpkin paradises. Pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, and pumpkin everything else line the shelves as soon as the season changes. Being constantly inundated with pumpkin foods, candies, and recipes has me thinking — how much do I really know about pumpkin?
Not much, actually. I mean, did you know that pumpkin is technically a fruit? Really! I asked Mascha Davis MPH, RDN, founder of MiniFish.co and author of Eat Your Vitamins, what else I was missing. "This colorful winter squash contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber," she tells Refinery29. "It's nutrient dense, but it’s naturally sweet and can be paired with almost any dish."
Okay, so we're off to a good start. Davis also points out that pumpkins are a great source of vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant, and they can help boost our immune system. "You can get your fill of fiber with a hefty dose of pumpkin, which helps support our digestion, regulates blood sugar, and helps lower cholesterol levels," she says. Davis also points out that pumpkins are also made mostly out of water (94% of it!), which can help support healthy bowel movements and good hydration.
So pumpkin: a tasty snack with some solid nutrients. There's a snag, though.
Many pumpkin foods and beverages on the market don’t contain much... pumpkin, Davis tells me. Did you know Starbucks' PSLs didn't actually contain pumpkin until 2015? While there's nothing wrong with enjoying a pumpkin-flavored, but pumpkin-free treat when a hankering hits, if you're eating something with the goal of getting pumpkins' signature hit of fiber or vitamin C, Davis suggests checking out a food's label before chowing down.
Besides the scrumptious orange flesh, pumpkins also offer us an abundance of seeds — which are also prime for snacking. They’re filled with healthy fats, a ton of magnesium, zinc, fiber, and are high in antioxidants. Seeds are an easy additive to any kind of meal, from smoothies to salads to soups — or, of course, you can roast them and eat them all by themselves.
While nothing can beat a pumpkin pie or, let's be honest, a pumpkin spice latte, Davis says she wishes people would enjoy sliced pumpkin more; it can be eaten like any squash — sliced and roasted, grilled, or sautéed and added to your favorite fall salad, according to Davis. "Just sauté a few cubes with some olive oil or toss with your favorite sauce," she says. "You can even mix some pumpkin puree into a little hummus to amp up the nutrients and fiber." Other clever ways to use it: in waffles, oatmeal, overnight oats, brownies, stews, or added to veggie burgers. Pumpkin season, we love you!