Pumpkin: The New Wonderfood

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Pumpkins aren't just for Halloween, people. With a wealth of health benefits, here's why you might want to introduce some more orange into your diet this autumn. And we're not just talking about pumpkin spiced lattes, FYI.

    Pumpkins are absolutely everywhere at this time of year, but most of us only think of them as things to carve, not things to eat. The humble pumpkin has so much more to offer, though, and here’s why you should think about adding some to your diet pronto.

    We asked expert nutritionist Shona Wilkinson from The Nutri Centre to tell us about pumpkin’s health benefits…

    1. It makes your skin glow
    Pumpkin is a great source of beta carotene, a natural antioxidant that is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is great for healthy, glowing skin.

    2. It’s good for your eyesight
    Pumpkin contains zeaxanthin, which is often taken in supplement form to help with vision. 

    3. It’s low in calories
    A handful of pumpkin only contains about 40 calories. It’s also full of fibre, which helps you feel full more quickly. This makes pumpkin a great choice if you’re watching your weight.

    4. It’s full of immune-boosting vitamins
    Pumpkin contains lots of vitamins and minerals that are great for your health, including calcium, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.

    5. Its seeds are brilliant for you
    Pumpkin seeds are a good source of fatty acids and fibre, which are beneficial for your heart health. They are also a good source of protein (which helps you feel full for longer), making them a brilliant healthy snack.

    Here’s how to prepare pumpkin seeds: 

    ‘Simply wipe the seeds off with a paper towl and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with some seasoning and lightly roast them at a low temperature for about 15 minutes. Cooking them at a low heat for a short time helps preserve their healthy oils. Simply add them to your salads and cereals or eat them on their own as a snack,’ says Shona Wilkinson. 


    As well as making a great base for savoury dishes including soups, salads and risottos, pumpkin is perfect for adding a bit of sweet goodness to desserts. 
    We asked one of our favourite food bloggers, Izy Hossack (aka Top With Cinnamon), to share two of her delicious yet healthy pumpkin-based treats for you to try at home…
    Banana Pumpkin Caramel Cake

    Here’s Izy’s recipe:


    3 eggs
    3/4 cup (6 oz/170g) light brown sugar
    1 cup (250ml) pumpkin puree
    1 tbsp vanilla extract
    1/3 cup (1.6oz/45g) rice flour 
    1 cup (4oz/110g) ground almonds
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/2 cup (3oz/85g) roughly chopped macadamia nuts, brazil nuts or pecans
    1/2 cup (125ml) of roughly mashed banana
    banana slices to decorate

    For the syrup: 

    1/4 cup (2 oz/55g) butter
    1/2 cup (4 oz/110g) light brown sugar
    3 tbsp boiling water

    Dulce de leche to serve


    1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C), and line a 2in (5cm) deep, 8.5in (22cm) square pan with baking paper. Grease the paper a little.

    2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until they’re a pale cappucino colour (this will take about 5 minutes). Beat in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Whisk in the flour, round almonds, baking powder and salt. Then using a spatula, fold in the chopped nuts and mashed banana.

    3. Pour the cake batter into the lined pan and decorate with the banana slices, placing them flat onto the cake batter. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes until the cake is springy and cooked all the way through.

    4. Leave the cake in its pan to cool while you make the syrup.

    5. Put all the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan and heat on medium, until everything has completely melted together. Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to the boil. Let it boil for 3 minutes, then remove it from the heat and immediately pour it all over the surface of the cake.

    5. Let the cake absorb the syrup for 10 minutes before cutting it into squares and serving it with the dulce de leche.

    Pumpkin Spice Baked Doughnuts with a Maple Cinnamon Glaze

    Here’s Izy’s recipe: 


    For the doughnuts:
    1/2 cup (60 g) oat flour 
    1/2 cup (70 g) sweet rice flour
    1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (76g) pure cane sugar
    1/4 cup (28g) almond meal
    1 and a half tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp ginger
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp allspice
    1/8 tsp ground cloves
    2 large eggs
    1/4 cup + 2 tbsp (88ml) milk
    1/3 cup (82g) pumpkin purée
    2 tbsp (30g) unsweetened apple sauce
    2 tbsp (28ml) oil
    1 and a half tsp vanilla extract
    For the glaze:
    1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
    2 tbsp (40g) maple syrup
    1/2 to 1 tbsp (8-15 ml) milk
    1/2 tsp cinnamon


    To make the doughnuts:

    1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease your doughnut pan.

    2. Combine the first 12 ingredients (oat flour through to ground cloves) in a large bowl, mixing well. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together, then add the milk, pumpkin purée, apple sauce, oil and vanilla. Whisk until well-combined.

    3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a large wooden spoon until just combined, being careful not to over mix (stop when you no longer see dry flour).

    4. Spoon the batter into the doughnut moulds, filling to just below the top of each mould, 1/8 to 1/4in (3 to 6mm) from the top. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until lightly golden brown around the edges. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Slide a thin spatula around the edges of the doughnuts to help loosen them out. Then place them on a cooling rack and allow them to cool fully before topping.

    To make the glaze:

    1. Mix the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Add more milk if a thinner consistency is desired.

    2. Invert the doughnut into the glaze, letting the excess drip off, or drizzle the glaze over the doughnuts. Let them set until the glaze has hardened.

    Reading now