I Ate Pumpkin Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
A trained family doctor shares her week-long experiment eating this scrumptious fall flavor every day—plus, a Cleveland Clinic expert shares the best way to prep pumpkin for hearty nutrition value.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, fall breezes in a little late this year. The first day of fall comes on Saturday, September 23, when in years past it’s been known to arrive as early as September 20. Fall is the season for the senses: The colors of changing leaves, the smell of crisper air, cozy fall feels like blankets and chunky sweaters, and rich flavors—including pumpkins: Arguably the most iconic symbol of fall.
Traditionally, most of us associated pumpkin with pie at the Thanksgiving table…but these days, this beloved squash has been embraced for much wider utility. Not only does the pumpkin spiced latte‘s annual debut date make headlines, but now from fast casual chain restaurants to the grocery store, it’s easy to find pumpkin soups, pastas, oatmeal mixes, and much more.
With my background in family medicine and a certification from the CDC in nutrition, I was curious: What happens when a fan of pumpkin goes a little crazy enjoying it for a week? I embarked on a seven-day journey eating this fall fruit to experience the health benefits of pumpkin for myself. Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition expert Lisa Reitz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC, shared the scientific scoop behind what I observed during my pumpkin-packed week.
Ways to eat pumpkin every day
It was fun to get intentional and find creative ways to pull pumpkin into my meals. Here’s how I managed to sneak in pumpkin, keeping it interesting with a variety of preparations:
Being an absolute smoothie enthusiast, I swear by the convenience and nutritional punch of healthy smoothie. So, blending pumpkin puree into my morning drink felt only natural. (I made a conscious choice to use organic pumpkin puree with no added sugars to ensure that I got the best natural flavors and nutrients.)
Pumpkin seeds quickly became my go-to snack. Their crunchy texture made them perfect for munching on their own. I also found them to be a fantastic salad topper, adding a bit of crunch to my leafy greens at lunch.
For dinner one night, I decided to experiment. I made a homemade pumpkin marinara sauce. Its creamy texture and nuanced flavor made my pasta dish so delicious that I ate it with meals over a couple days.
By the end of the week, I was craving something new. This led me to one of the local cafes that was advertising a pumpkin bowl, similar to an açaí bowl but with a delightful seasonal twist: The base had a rich pumpkin puree blended with bananas and açaí, topped with granola, pumpkin seeds, and honey. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory to close out my week of eating pumpkin.
The health benefits of pumpkin
Reitz explains there’s a lot of goodness inside this gourd: “Pumpkins are low in calories and a good source of fiber—containing 50 calories and three grams of fiber per one-cup serving.” It’s a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals, too—says Reitz: “Pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.” Vitamin A often shows up in orange-colored plant foods, beneficial for your skin, eyes, fighting off disease, as well as the function of major organs like your heart and lungs. Vitamin C can give you a leg up to fight off fall viruses and can aid healthy sleep in the cooler months.
Research from June 2022 highlighted a range of health benefits from pumpkins, including support for male fertility, aiding wound recovery, and providing antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and anti-ulcerative properties. In addition, pumpkins have shown promise in addressing benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate.
There’s another treasure inside, Reitz says: Pumpkin seeds are nutritionally rich, being “a good source of protein, fiber, and many other minerals.” (Roasting them with cinnamon, curry powder, or just a light dusting of sea salt can be a great snack on pumpkin-carving day!) On the innovation front, some scientists have been investigating pumpkin seeds for potential drug delivery, speaking to their potency, though more in-depth studies are needed.
In short, pumpkins are a rich source of nutritional and therapeutic advantages.
When I ate pumpkin every day, I had better digestion
One of the immediate advantages I observed was enhanced digestion. Just as I had experienced this benefit from my recent week of daily banana consumption, I found that pumpkins, too, are a solid source of fiber!
Reitz says, “Research has shown that a diet rich in fiber can help support bowel regularity. Consuming one cup of pumpkin daily would provide roughly 10% of your recommended needs.” I could attest to that with my digestive system operating like clockwork.
When I ate pumpkin every day, I saw nicer skin
My skin was another area where I noticed an improvement—a brighter and more balanced complexion, plus zero breakouts. Reitz says, “The orange color of pumpkin comes from beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant and converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin.”
In fact, vitamin A is synonymous with retinol, which many dermatologists regard as a powerful ingredient for keeping skin youthful and promoting the turnover of healthy skin cells.
When I ate pumpkin every day, I had better sleep
Restful sleep was an interesting outcome as the days went by—but could pumpkins have been behind this too? Reitz pointed out, “Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan and tyrosine, which are precursors to serotonin and dopamine—both are known to play a role in regulating anxiety and stress.”
This made sense, as my sleep quality seemed to improve with my daily pumpkin intake.
Pumpkin health questions
I was curious whether there’s a nutritional difference between fresh pumpkin and its processed versions. Reitz provided clarity: “Canned pumpkin puree is just as nutritious as fresh pumpkin; however, canned pumpkin pie mix and other pumpkin-flavored foods are often high in sugar.”
Is frequent pumpkin a safe diet choice for everyone? “For most of the population, there are no concerns with consuming pumpkins daily,” Reitz says. “However, I would caution intake for those individuals with kidney disease due to the potassium content.”
Regarding the best preparation method to enjoy the nutritional value of pumpkins, Reitz mentioned, “The nutritional value is comparable—the major difference is convenience.” If you’re curious about the best consumption and storage methods, she suggested, “You can bake, steam, roast, or microwave pumpkin. You can also add pumpkin puree to oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes, muffins, pasta dishes, soups. Cooked pumpkin can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days, and pumpkin puree can be frozen for later use.”
It’s clear that fresh or pureed pumpkins are a boon for your health. As the leaves turn amber and evening arrives earlier, I’ve got more than one reason to embrace and celebrate pumpkins beyond the festive season—and now, I hope you do, too.