Pumpkin, an iconic symbol of the fall harvest and highly versatile winter squash used in recipes both savory and sweet, is suitable for meals served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Canned pumpkin puree is sold in stores for your convenience but is it Paleo?
Nutritional Value of Canned Pumpkin
Serving Size: ½ cup
- Calories: 50
- Total Fat: 0
- Carbohydrate: 11 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Sodium: 10 mg
- Fiber: 3 g
Health Benefits of Canned Pumpkin
Pumpkin is a type of winter squash and it’s a nutritional powerhouse. For relatively few calories, canned pumpkin is a moderate source of carbohydrate, a good source of fiber, and is loaded with disease-fighting anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A in the form of carotenes, vitamin E and vitamin K are plentiful in canned pumpkin as well as a fair amount of vitamin C and an assembly of B vitamins including vitamin B6, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Carotenes not only give pumpkin it’s characteristic orange color, but work synergistically to fight inflammatory processes that may lead to diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis and diabetes. Once ingested, carotenes are turned into vitamin A, a crucial component of vision and reproduction. If you’re looking to increase your anti-oxidant intake, canned pumpkin actually reigns superior to cooked fresh pumpkin in that it contains about 20 times more beta-carotene. Manufacturers concentrate the beta-carotene content by choosing pumpkins with the deepest orange color and by removing some of the moisture before canning.
Are there any downsides to canned pumpkin? The following are a few facts worth noting. First, there are many different varieties of pumpkin, or winter squash and unless you contact the manufacturer, you won’t know which variety your canned product actually contains. Don’t panic! Since there is very little nutritional difference between varieties, this is likely a non-issue. More disturbing, is that canned pumpkin may contain bisphenol A (BPA) in the lining. Bisphenol A is an endocrine disrupter that can mimic many of our body’s hormones in potentially harmful ways. Finally, canned pumpkin packaged as “pie mix” may contain up to three added teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Seasonality and Where to Buy Canned Pumpkin
Some varieties of pumpkin are available year round but they are at their peak from late summer to mid-winter. Manufacturers pick pumpkins at their peak and process them within hours. You can buy canned pumpkin in just about any grocery and many stores including Target, Whole Foods, HEB and Trader Joe’s carry organic brands in BPA-free cans and containers such as Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin, Pacific Natural Pumpkin Puree and Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin. These brands are also available online.
Should I Eat Canned Pumpkin? Is Canned Pumpkin Paleo?
One of the pillars of Paleo is the emphasis placed on the nutritional benefits of fresh, whole foods that remain in their natural state from farm to table. When this is not an option due to budgetary restriction, lack of availability, or any other reason, Paleo emphasizes foods that are as minimally processed as possible and canned pumpkin falls into this category. If you can’t find fresh pumpkin or you are unable or unwilling to make your own puree, then canned pumpkin is a good Paleo alternative. Keep quality in mind when choosing a brand and make sure your canned pumpkin is free of added sugar and other unwanted ingredients.
How To Make Pumpkin Puree
There are many methods for homemade pumpkin puree. Small “pie pumpkins” are usually sweeter than larger carving pumpkins. Look for pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size with no soft spots or bruising. Cut your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and either microwave in an inch of water or steam on the stove for 15 to 30 minutes until soft. You can also roast a whole pumpkin in the oven saving you the laborious process of cutting a fresh one open. Using a sharp paring knife, stab a few air vents into the top of the pumpkin and bake on a baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. Let cool for a few minutes and then cut your cooked pumpkin in half with ease, scoop out the seeds and stringy fibers and puree in a blender. Alternatively, you can cut a raw pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and fibers and place face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 50 minutes until soft. One small sugar pumpkin provides a comparable amount of puree to one 15oz can.
If you’re going to use your pumpkin puree in a recipe, you may want to strain out any extra liquid by letting it sit in a cheesecloth lined metal strainer over a bowl for a few hours and/or cook over low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stirring frequently until thickened.