To Your Health: When it comes to pumpkin, go for the real thing

Pumpkin Patch feature

Pumpkin-flavored is all the rage these days. But if you want the health benefits of pumpkin, opt for the real thing.

“Pumpkin-flavored” drinks and treats are all the rage these days. When they arrive on the menu at your favorite eatery or coffee shop, you know the holidays are here.

A recent review from Chicago-based Datassential Menu Trends found the number of “pumpkin-inspired” menu items offered for a limited time at American chain establishments rose a staggering 234 percent from 2008 to 2012.

But here’s something to chew on: There’s rarely any actual pumpkin in these seasonal favorites.

As the New York Times’ Michael Moss recently explained, “Pumpkin’s delicate, earthy taste is too subtle to stand up to the heavier formulas in many processed foods. Instead, many manufacturers opt for the potent in-your-face spices in pumpkin pie: cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.”

Pumpkin flavoring can also have other additives (natural or otherwise) to mimic the taste of buttery pie crust and thick cream.

It’s important to note that pumpkin flavoring isn’t necessarily bad for you. Most times, it’s more important to focus on things like fat and sugar content.

But if you really want to honor the pumpkin this holiday season, opt for the real stuff instead. After all, pumpkin is practically a super-food. It’s high in fiber, chock full of vitamins, and low in calories.

Pumpkins also come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and flavors. They can stand on their own – roasted or stir fried – or they can be the main attraction in dishes both savory and sweet. You can even mix pureed pumpkins in smoothies and hot drinks, including your favorite latte.

So what’s your favorite pumpkin dish or treat? Share in the comments section, or weigh in on Twitter or Facebook.

One comment

  • My uncle raised pumpkins commercially when we were kids. The kind that are processed into pie fillings and such. We got real pumpkins from them for jack’o’lanterns each year. Real pumpkins, not those whimpy little, think-walled jack’o’lantern things. (My cousins grew a 100lb pumpkin one year!).

    Real commercial pumpkins have shells about 4-6″ thick. After our jack’o’lanterns finished their stint outside, we brought them inside and cut them up into chunks. Then we’d put the chunks in baking pans with some water in the bottom. Dot the chunks with butter, sprinkle on some cinnamon and brown sugar, and bake until tender. Then pop them out, let them cool a bit, and enjoy with spoon in hand! Incredibly tasty and much healthier than gorging on candy!


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