The great pumpkin: more than just a latte

From tasty drinks, sweet treats and even fun projects, pumpkins are a fall essential. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

It seems that pumpkin flavoring is everywhere. The famous pumpkin spice latte, originally created by Starbucks, is currently sweeping across the nation in coffee shops and grocery stores. While the pumpkin flavor hype may be real, society may overlook the pumpkin itself. Like other fruits and vegetables, pumpkins actually have many health benefits.

According to The Huffington Post’s article “8 Impressive Health Benefits Of Pumpkin,” pumpkin can help improve your vision, keep your heart healthy, reduce the risk of cancer and is helpful to your immune system.

Though the pumpkin spice flavor is delicious, it comes with major sugars and carbohydrates, according to Starbucks’ website. A 16 oz latte with 2 percent milk and whipped cream contains 52 grams of carbs and 50 grams of sugar. In contrast, one cup of raw pumpkin only contains 3.20 grams of sugar per cup and 7.54 grams of carbs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cindy Egan, produce director of the People’s Grocery Cooperative Exchange in Manhattan, finds pumpkins to be a healthy food that should be enjoyed during the season. The store runs a deli that uses pumpkin in their soups and smoothies. Egan also mentioned the benefits of pumpkin seeds.

“Pumpkin seeds are packed with protein,” Egan said. “This makes them a great source of protein for vegans.”

Pumpkin seeds are also great for your skin, and one cup of pumpkin contains over 100 milligrams more potassium than a banana, Egan said.

According to an article on the Daily Burn website titled “6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkins,” pumpkins, specifically the seeds, are rich in beta-carotene, which has “cancer protective properties.”

Adam Johnson, junior in bakery science and management and food science, said baking with pumpkin is a great way to load up with nutrients and fix sweet cravings. He said he enjoys making pumpkin pie and pumpkin whoopie pies, and he uses fresh pumpkin, not canned, in his dishes even though it requires extra time.

“The health benefits of fresh and canned pumpkins are the same,” Johnson said. “But baking with fresh makes people think you go the extra mile.”

Pumpkins can be found at grocery stores or local pumpkin patches. Angela Britt, the owner of Britt’s Garden Acres, said she loves using pumpkins to cook with.

“People don’t realize all the things you can do with pumpkins,” Britt said. “Cooking with pumpkins is easy; it’s just like carving one.”

For an actual meal, Britt said she uses a type of pumpkin called a Turk’s Turban. She said she cuts off the top, guts it, puts items such as sausage and onions in it and then bakes it in the oven.

For sweeter items, such as pies, Britt said she uses a Cinderella Pumpkin, which ranges from small to very large. Britt said she believes these pumpkins make the best pie because they are sweeter. She said she has gotten up to 20 cups of pumpkin puree from just one Cinderella Pumpkin.

From sweet treats to dinners, pumpkins can be used more regularly during this season than people may think. If you would rather not eat the puree, don’t forget that pumpkin seeds are a healthy option too.

Whatever way you choose to get your fill of pumpkin, you can be sure that you are getting nutrients. After all, pumpkins aren’t just pumpkin spice lattes and jack-o’-lanterns.