While it’s no secret that everyone loves pumpkin flavored foods and drinks during this time of year, did you know that there are actually many nutritional benefits to eating pumpkin? Aside from tasting great, pumpkin is rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We talked with Kaylee Jacks, MS, CSSD, RD, LD, a sports dietician and VIS Expert, to dive deeper into the nutritional benefits of pumpkin and how we can incorporate it into our fueling.
What makes pumpkin a superfood?
‘Superfood’ is a term used to describe nutrient dense foods which offer many health benefits, and pumpkin is a perfect example. “Pumpkin is rich in various nutrients that can contribute to improved health,” Jacks says. Rich in vitamin A and carotenoids—which give pumpkins their orange color—pumpkin is great for eye health. Additionally, Jacks points out that pumpkin is packed full of vitamin C, which boosts immune function to help us avoid catching those fall colds, and potassium, the electrolyte that supports critical functions in athletes including heart health, muscle function, and hydration. Plus, pumpkin is also a healthy source of carbohydrates, which serve as fuel for energy when we exercise, Jacks says.
Pumpkin seeds are great as well
Don’t sleep on pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein, healthy fat and fiber, Jacks says, and are packed with many essential nutrients including calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. These tiny seeds do it all: protein supports muscle growth and repair, as well as hormone function, while healthy fats support heart and mental function and provide the body with energy while at rest. Fiber supports digestion, calcium is critical for bone health, and magnesium and zinc have been found to improve heart health, sleep quality, and mood. So next time you carve a pumpkin, don’t throw the seeds away–find a way to incorporate them into your diet to ensure you’re not missing out on these key nutritional benefits.
How can athletes incorporate pumpkin into their fueling?
Now that we’ve heard all about the nutritional benefits of pumpkin, how can we incorporate it into our day-to-day fueling? The most convenient way to get pumpkin is to purchase it pureed and canned, but small pie pumpkins (the kind you can carve) can also be sliced and roasted. Plus, it’s a great way to get the seeds. Once you’ve got your pumpkin, Jacks suggests making pumpkin-based meals, such as pumpkin casserole, or simply adding pumpkin puree to meals and snacks you already eat like oats, yogurt, or a smoothie. Roasted pumpkin seeds also serve as a convenient, nutrient-dense on the go snack.
“Pumpkin is rich in various nutrients that can contribute to improved health.”
Try this pumpkin recipe for yourself
Jacks’s personal favorite pumpkin recipe is easy, convenient, and rich in nutrients: roasted pumpkin seeds.
To make them, “simply clean pumpkin seeds, drizzle with ~1TBS olive oil, sprinkle cinnamon, garlic powder and turmeric on top, and bake in the oven at ~250°F for about 20min.