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Do You Know Nutrition: Rise of the great pumpkin

By By Phylis Canion
Oct. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.


Tell me about pumpkins. Are they a fruit or a vegetable?

With the wonderful days of autumn upon us, pumpkin season is around the corner. Pumpkins, which originated in Central America, are in the vine crop family called cucurbits; therefore, they are considered a fruit rather than a vegetable - uh oh - did some of you get that one wrong?

The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word pepon, which means large melon. The French changed the word to pompon. The English changed pompon to pumpion and then to ponpions. Finally, the American colonists changed the word to pumpkin. Whew.

Known as the world's largest fruit, the record weight was set in 2010 with the heaviest pumpkin tipping the scale at 1,810 pounds. Pumpkins contain about 90 percent water and contain about 500 seeds inside each pumpkin.

Eighty percent of the supply of pumpkins in the U.S. is available in October, with almost 95 percent of the processed pumpkins grown in Illinois, producing more than 1.5 billion pounds per year.

The health benefits of pumpkins are numerous. Pumpkins have zero cholesterol and are used in numerous facial creams. That bright orange color is an indicator that the fruit is loaded with beta carotene, a very beneficial carotenoid converted to vitamin A in the body.

Just one cup of pumpkin contains about 250 international units of vitamin A. Pumpkins are low in fat, low in calories and sodium, high in fiber and protein and are an excellent source of B vitamins, potassium and iron. And don't forget those pumpkin seeds.

They are also a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals. If you suffer from apocolocynposis, you may not have enjoyed this column. That is the fear of turning into a pumpkin.

Thought for the week: By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work 12 hours a day. - Robert Frost

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at doc.phyl@yahoo.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.

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