Just inside of its hard, ribbed exterior lies its edible orange flesh. Composed of about 90% water, pumpkin flesh is low in calories and sodium, and, like other squashes, it’s a good source of fiber and iron, and an excellent source of vitamin K. But one of the main contributors to pumpkin’s nutritional nature lies in its color: The compounds responsible for pumpkin’s characteristic carrot-like color include beta-carotene and related nutrients called carotenoids. Some of these compounds can be used in the body to make vitamin A, but may also have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting activities of their own. Researchers have found that carotenoids and vitamin A may play a role in regulating metabolism and preventing obesity, and may partly explain how fruits and vegetables protect against a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. One cup of pumpkin flesh provides almost eight times the daily requirement for vitamin A.
Inside the cavity created by the rind and shell you’ll find a treasure trove of pumpkin seeds. They’re well worth the time and effort it takes to scrape them out and clean them—an ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds (about 85 seeds) is a good source of magnesium, and an excellent source of zinc and fiber.
So, when you’re carving your spooky jack-o-lantern, be sure to save the seeds for roasting, and consider getting a second pumpkin to turn into soup or pudding, or to blend in to your next smoothie.
(Int J Mol Sci 2014;15:6725–40)