With the exception of pies and perhaps a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, this ingredient (or a flavor made to mimic it) isn't often used in entrees. Yes, at Thanksgiving and Christmas time you may come across this vegetable in soups and sides, but rarely is it among the staple ingredients of a main course. Elsewhere in the world, it's used as the main attraction. The Filipino dish, kalabasa, is chopped up pumpkin simmered in coconut milk and served over rice as an entree.In terms of production, you will likely be surprised to hear there is almost a monopoly on the pumpkin puree which is produced in the United States. Libby, a subsidiary of Nestle, is said to control 85% of the pumpkin crop for canning (1).Can you eat pumpkin raw? Yes. There's nothing dangerous about doing so but it may not taste good due to its chewy fibers which can be hard to digest raw and uncooked.Whatever form you choose, is eating pumpkin good for you? Let's look at the positives first. It's a great low calorie food. One cup of it mashed (245 grams) comes in at only 49 calories. Assuming you don't add sugar, butter or oils to it, this makes it an extremely filling ingredient to incorporate into all kinds of recipes. It's a perfect choice for those watching their weight. Other nutritional benefits for that same amount include just 2.5 grams of sugar and 12 grams of carbs (which is only 4% of your daily value, making it a low carb food). For vitamins you're getting a staggering 12,231 IU of vitamin A which is 245% of your daily value and 11.5 mg of vitamin C, which is 19%.Now for the bad news. The amount of antioxidants found in pumpkin is low. How low? Well if you're comparing it on an equal weight basis, its ORAC value is almost the same as iceberg lettuce, which is 438. Though in defense of the orange vegetable, obviously it would be easier to eat 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of pumpkin than it would be to eat the same amount of lettuce, since that weighs so little.With the exception of vitamin C and A, pumpkins don't pack a high percentage of vitamins. The 3rd highest vitamin is riboflavin - 0.2 mg or 11% of daily value. All the rest come in at 10% or below.For mineral content, potassium is highest at 16%. Copper and manganese are 11% and all the remaining are under 10%. Protein is almost non-existent in the vegetable itself but the seeds are an excellent source - 5 grams per ounce. Pumpkins are healthy for you to eat, so long as you aren't depending on them for a complete nutritional source.
USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2 - Prepared by Nutrient Data Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - May 2010