The pumpkin has been used as everything from animal feed to a cure for snake bites, says the University of Illinois Extension. Although the majority of pumpkins in the United States end up as jack-o'-lanterns or in Thanksgiving pie, you can use cooked pumpkin in any recipe calling for winter squash, including soups, stews, stuffed pasta dishes, baked goods, risotto, braises and sautes. Pumpkin is low in fat, cholesterol-free, high in fiber and a source of antioxidants. It is also rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Excellent Source of Vitamin A
A 1-cup serving of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains 706 micrograms of vitamin A. This amount supplies approximately 78 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A for a man and over 100 percent of the required intake per day for a woman. Your body needs vitamin A to support the health of your eyes and to help your immune system function normally. Without adequate vitamin A, you might be more likely to develop cataracts or age-related macular degeneration. To absorb the most possible vitamin A, eat pumpkin with a source of healthy fat; for example, try roasting cubed pumpkin with a light drizzle of olive oil.
Rich in Copper
An adult should have 900 micrograms of copper each day to help her body metabolize energy, absorb iron and synthesize collagen and red blood cells. Pumpkin is a good way to fulfill this requirement, as each cup of cooked pumpkin contains about 223 micrograms of copper, or nearly 25 percent of the amount adults require daily. If your diet lacks copper-rich foods like pumpkin, you may have a higher chance of osteoporosis, anemia or osteoarthritis, according to University of Maryland Medical Center.
Good Way to Get Your Iron
Pumpkin contains 1.4 milligrams of iron in each cooked, mashed cup. Men between 19 and 50, and all adults over 51 years old, need 8 milligrams of iron per day. Eating a cup of cooked pumpkin would fulfill more than 17 percent of this recommendation. For a 19- to 50-year-old woman, it would supply 7.7 percent of her daily requirement. The iron in pumpkins is nonheme, a form that isn't easily absorbed by the body. To increase absorption, eat pumpkin with a source of vitamin C, such as with tomatoes or carrots in a stew.
High in Riboflavin
Riboflavin belongs to the B family of vitamins and acts as an antioxidant, preventing DNA and cellular tissue damage by inhibiting free-radical compounds. It also plays a role in aiding the nervous system and in breaking down fats, carbohydrates and protein for energy. A 1-cup serving of cooked pumpkin contains 0.19 milligrams of niacin, an amount that supplies almost 15 percent of the RDA for a man and 17 percent of the daily requirement for a woman. Riboflavin is water-soluble, so the concentration of the vitamin will decrease if pumpkin is exposed to water. Instead of boiling pumpkin, try steaming it for less water contact.
- University of Illinois Extension: Pumpkin Facts
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pumpkin, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- SuperKids Nutrition: Pumpkin Day
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A (Retinol)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)