Wonderful Pumpkin Treats Carry a Caveat

Suzy Weems, Ph.D.

Pumpkin purveyors have reason for grins as wide as those of their jack-o’-lanterns. Pumpkin products proliferate this time of year for traditional pies, breads and Halloween décor, and also for whimsical goodies that may not live up to the pumpkin’s healthy reputation. Appealing to palates are pumpkin donuts, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin latte and even chocolate pumpkin candy.

Pumpkin pluses include fiber for dieters that want a full feeling zeaxanthin for boomers seeking a weapon against age-related macular degeneration and impaired eyesight; low cholesterol; and vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes and as an aid in fighting cancer. Pumpkin seeds contain heart-healthy phytosterols. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration list pumpkins as a good source of protein, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, zinc and iron

Jack-o-lanternThis orange-tinged cloud of goodness, however, does harbor a not-so-silver lining, in the form of certain pumpkin snacks. The fat in pumpkin seeds doesn’t disappear when they are roasted. When consuming other pumpkin-infused dishes, especially dessert, we must ask how much is added for flavoring and what constitutes the rest of the ingredients. Pumpkin latte may still include milk or syrup and donuts are still donuts, whatever they taste like. Those with diabetes need to be especially watchful of their total carbohydrate intake and carefully read every food wrapper.

Suzy Weems, Ph.D., is a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition sciences in Baylor University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, a former chair of the American Dietetic Association's legislative and public policy committee and a past president of the Texas Dietetic Association.

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