Pumpkins aren't just reserved for Halloween carvings and Thanksgiving Day pies. This hearty fruit (yes, it's scientifically a fruit!) is chock-full of nutrients, so you can enjoy the benefits of pumpkin any time of year.
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While you can use pumpkin for baking and cooking, you can certainly eat it raw to reap the nutritional benefits.
Pumpkin is a tasty fruit high in vitamin A. Although pumpkin recipes usually involve baking or cooking this food item, you can eat pumpkin raw.
Can You Eat Raw Pumpkin?
Many pumpkin recipes call for it to be cooked, but you can also eat raw pumpkins.
"Yes, it is safe to eat raw pumpkin," says registered dietitian Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, RD. "Raw pumpkin may even have more nutrients (especially water-soluble B vitamins) than cooked pumpkin since some can get lost through water evaporation. If you like the flavor of raw pumpkin, it's totally fine and safe to eat, and it's very high in fiber."
Raw pumpkin has a more bitter taste and tough texture than cooked pumpkin, but if you're up for the challenge of preparing it, it can be a beneficial addition to your meal plan.
Raw Pumpkin Nutrition
Raw pumpkin is a nutritionally dense food. A 1-cup serving of raw pumpkin is fat-free and contains just 30 calories as well as 1.2 grams of protein and 0.6 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.
Raw vs. Cooked Pumpkin
Per 1 cup
Vitamin A in Raw Pumpkin
The most prominent nutrient in pumpkin is vitamin A, with 1 cup raw offering 55 percent of your Daily Value (DV).
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient. As an antioxidant, it helps protect cells from damage as you age. It is also essential for eye health because it helps you see at night, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The vitamin A in pumpkin can also keep your skin healthy and free from dryness as well as support your immune system.
Just keep in mind that too much vitamin A can have toxic effects. Getting too much vitamin A can lead to hypervitaminosis A, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This can make you sick and lead to birth defects during pregnancy.
How to Eat Raw Pumpkin
Raw pumpkin has a hearty, rich flavor that makes it a good stand-alone snack or side dish. One of the best ways to eat pumpkin is to slice it into cubes, but you can also eat raw canned pumpkin.
Sprinkle cinnamon to give it a dessert-like flavor without all of the fat and sugar. You can even add flaxseeds for a crunchy texture. Also, don't forget about the pumpkin seeds — these edible treasures are full of magnesium that helps protect nerve and muscle function.
Hunnes also recommends the following ways to enjoy raw pumpkin:
- Make pumpkin pie yogurt by mixing pumpkin purée and cinnamon with cashew or almond yogurt
- Add raw pumpkin to smoothies
- Mix puréed pumpkin with cream cheese and spread the mixture on toast or bagels
- Make pudding with raw pumpkin
- Add it to pancake batter
- Bake it into pumpkin bread