Health Watch -- Great Pumpkins

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Great treasure lurks inside a grinning pumpkin - nutritional treasure, that is.

With Halloween approaching, you may see jack- o'-lanterns carved out of pumpkins grinning at you from windows and porches. You may dig into a pumpkin, yourself. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you shouldn't overlook the treasures inside a pumpkin while you're carving your Halloween decor.

Pumpkins may be decorative, but they're also full of nutrients. Pumpkin flesh is a good source of vitamins A and C - essential antioxidants that help fight disease. Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber, vitamin B12 and polyunsaturated fatty acids - one of the so-called "good" fats. Pumpkin is also low in fat and calories.

Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian at UT Southwestern and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says if you're going to eat your pumpkin, choose smaller ones. Their flesh is softer and tastier. Look for a pumpkin that is blemish and bruise-free. Store pumpkins in a cool, dry place until you're ready to use them. Pumpkin flesh can be baked and used in pies and baked goods, or served like you'd serve winter squash or sweet potatoes.

Don't throw away the pumpkin seeds when you carve your jack- o'-lantern. Clean them, dry them off, then roast them in the oven. They make handy, nutritious snacks, or they can add texture and crunch as a salad topping.


Oct. 2004

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