Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween carvings and Thanksgiving Day pies. This hearty fruit (yes, it's scientifically a fruit!) is full of healthful nutrients, so you can enjoy the benefits of pumpkin any time of year.
While you can use pumpkin for baking and cooking, you can certainly eat pumpkin raw to reap its nutritional benefits.
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Pumpkin is high in vitamin A. Although pumpkin recipes usually involve baking or cooking this tasty fruit, 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 because 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."
In terms of flavor and feel, raw pumpkin has a more bitter taste and tougher texture than cooked pumpkin; it can also be somewhat stringy if you're eating straight from the fruit instead of the can. Still, if you're up for the challenge of preparing it, it can be a beneficial addition to your meal plan.
While eating raw pumpkin is safe, there are some potential side effects of eating raw pumpkin that decrease when the food is cooked. Eating raw foods may increase your risk of food poisoning. This is often due to the fact that foods cut open or pre-cut can be exposed to harmful bacteria lingering on surfaces. It is especially important to wash your produce if you're planning to eat it raw, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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 Pumpkin vs. Cooked Pumpkin
Per 1 cup
Vitamin A in Raw Pumpkin
Orange produce like pumpkins are known for their vitamin A. One cup of raw pumpkin offers 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, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The vitamin A in pumpkin can also support healthy skin and immunity.
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, or you can eat raw canned pumpkin, which comes in puréed form.
Sprinkle cinnamon on top to give pumpkin a dessert-like flavor without adding fat or sugar. You can even add flaxseeds for a crunchy texture.
Don't forget about the pumpkin seeds — these edible treasures are rich in magnesium, which helps protect nerve and muscle function.
Hunnes also recommends the following raw pumpkin recipes:
- 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