How to pick and prep a perfect pumpkin

Pumpkin pie cooking
Photo credit: invizbk/Getty Images

Fall is pumpkin season, but pumpkin is more than just a pretty face. It packs great seasonal health benefits, too! Here are a few reasons to add more pumpkin to your diet.

Health benefits of pumpkin

  • Just a cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin contains more than 200% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A which is good for vision (especially in dim light).
  • Pumpkins are also rich in carotenoids (the source of the squash’s vibrant orange color) including beta-carotene which the body can convert into a form of vitamin A.
  • It’s a great source of fiber – 3 grams per one-cup serving – and has only 49 calories, so you’ll feel full for longer, on fewer calories.
  • Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in plant-based phytosterols that have been shown to reduce “bad” cholesterol.
  • The seeds are also rich in tryptophan amino acid which is important in the production of serotonin, a major mood-enhancer.
  • Pumpkin’s beta-carotene has been shown to potentially reduce cancer risk. These carotenoids also help keep the skin wrinkle-free.
  • A cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 milligrams of potassium, important for refueling.
  • Canned pumpkin is nearly 90% water so it’s great for keeping you hydrated.
  • Pumpkin has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance and increase the amount of insulin the body produces.

How to pick a pumpkin

Now that we’ve convinced you about pumpkins incredible nutritional properties, here’s how to pick a pumpkin.

  • Choose pumpkins that feel solid and heavy for their size.
  • Look for smooth, hard skin with no cracks, blemishes or soft spots.
  • If you’re cooking with the pumpkin, look for small, sweet pumpkins with a thick flesh and a small seed cavity. Good varieties include Baby Bear, Cheese and Sugar Pie.

How to cut a pumpkin

  1. Steady the pumpkin on a thick towel.
  2. Insert a large carving knife near the stem and cut down toward the bottom. Then, turn the pumpkin and cut down the other side.
  3. Scoop the seeds out with a large spoon, being sure to scrape along the flesh to remove the fibrous strings.

Now that you’ve got your perfect pumpkin and cut it open, it’s time to start cooking with it! Check out a few pumpkin recipes here:

  1. Pumpkin Bundt cake with brown sugar glaze & pecans
  2. Pumpkin pie with harvest-spiced cream & caramelized almonds
  3. Traditional, simple & sweet: A pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling is perfect for fall and the holidays
  4. Pumpkin eggnog cupcakes
  5. Pumpkin cheesecake parfaits