Fall sees a rash of “pumpkin spice” products – hot drinks, baked goods, liqueurs, and this morning I even saw pumpkin spice breakfast cereal. Apart from being a delightful seasonal treat, what can pumpkin spice do for you, nutritionally?
Take pumpkin first. Pumpkin is full of soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s low calorie (95% water). Its orange color comes from carotenoids, which protect eyesight and may neutralize free radicals. Here’s a breakdown of the nutrients in ½ a cup of cooked pumpkin (1 serving):
- Calories: 25
- Fat: 0.1 gram (negligible, essentially fat-free)
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 12 grams (net, 6 grams)
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Vitamin A: 125% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin C: 10% of the RDI
- Potassium: 8% of the RDI
- Copper: 5% of the RDI
- Manganese: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin B2: 5% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 5% of the RDI
- Iron: 4% of the RDI
- Traces of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, folate and several B vitamins.
And pumpkin is cheap. Buy the small, so-called “pie” pumpkins and casserole them, or make them into soup. Clean the seeds, toast them, and eat them for a delicious snack, full of hard-to-get selenium. After Thanksgiving, canned, no-added sugar pumpkin puree is usually on sale – stock up and treat yourself right through the depths of winter. Buy brands that say “no BHP” on the can.
Next, spices. Pumpkin (pie) spice is usually a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice. Spices in general increase metabolism, act as anti-inflammatories and anti-bacterials, and help to control blood sugar. In the quantities used in most “pumpkin spice” products, these effects are pretty limited, but you can add 1 tsp to your hot drinks in order to increase them. Don’t use more than 2 tsp per day.
What other benefits do I get from the pumpkin spice craze? Well, if you go out to the country and pick up your own pumpkin, you get a fun, exercise-filled day in the sunshine. Maybe ending with a PSL. Can you beat that?