Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, discusses the latest hot topics in the field of diet, nutrition, and cancer every week in a column called HealthTalk published by The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
A: No. Both fresh and canned pumpkin are excellent choices, as long as the canned pumpkin you choose is plain, solid pack pumpkin and not sugar-laden pumpkin pie mix.
Pumpkin is loaded with carotenoids, including both beta- and alpha-carotene, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, the antioxidants linked to protecting the lens and retina of our eyes. Beta- and alpha-carotene may play a role in reducing our risk of cancer, because in lab studies, these compounds seem part of processes that help control cell growth, and they are both converted to retinol (vitamin A), important for immune function and possibly for activation of carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes.
AICR/WCRF’s expert report and its updates link foods high in carotenoids to lower risk of mouth, larynx and lunch cancers. While pumpkin is inexpensive and abundant at farmers’ markets and your grocery store, you might head toward fresh.
Choose smaller cooking or sweet pumpkins. Peel and cut in cubes for stir-fries, chili and stew, and experiment with adding it to pasta dishes and enchiladas. Cut pieces will keep in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for about two days. You can also freeze it in uncooked chunks or as cooked purée.
For those times when you want a smooth pumpkin purée to stir into soup or pasta sauce, canned versions are super-quick and nutritious. Canned pumpkin is not salted, so it’s about the same near-zero sodium as fresh pumpkin.