Beware the Pumpkin Phonies

Separating the nutritious and real from the superficial

Step into the grocery store right now and it’s pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere you look.

Aside from the vine-ripened gourds ready for goring, the aisles are flooded with pumpkin cookies, soups, bisques, chips, candies and much more.

But just how much pumpkin is in all of this pumpkin-palooza?

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Despite the prominent placement of “pumpkin” in the products’ names, most of these seasonal choices contain little or no actual pumpkin.

International Delight’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer, for example, does not list pumpkin on its label as one of its ingredients. It does, however, list ingredients that most people cannot pronounce.

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Pepperidge Farm’s Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread says it contains “2 percent or less of pumpkin” — despite the upbeat holiday-based name.

There is even pumpkin-flavored Purina dog food, which lists pumpkin 11th among its ingredients, behind rice, barley, chicken meal and more.

“The pumpkin craze has gotten a bit out of control,” Molly Rieger, a registered dietitian and cofounder of Tovita Nutrition, a counseling and concierge service, told LifeZette. “I’m all about incorporating real pumpkin or pure canned pumpkin — not the canned pumpkin pie filling — into our diets, but avoid pumpkin-flavored drinks and baked goods unless you are making them at home without the added sugar.”

Another Giant Food item, All Natural Pumpkin Sauce, lists pumpkin first on its ingredients list, followed by Italian tomatoes, honey and garlic.

Certain products, of course, do contain a decent amount of pumpkin and they proudly mention that.

Libby’s Pumpkin Bread Kit, as well as Sprout’s Pumpkin baby food, for example, list pumpkin fifth or so in their ingredients lists.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Tortilla Chips snack is apparently 17 percent pumpkin — not bad. (Just eight chips, however, contain 140 calories.)

Many seasonal products do list pumpkin among their first few ingredients. Giant Food’s Pumpkin Bisque, for example, lists pumpkin as its second ingredient, behind water. Spring Mill Bread Co.’s Pumpkin and Walnut Loaf also lists pumpkin second in its list.

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Another Giant Food item, All Natural Pumpkin Sauce, lists pumpkin first on its ingredients list, followed by Italian tomatoes, honey and garlic. It also contains just 100 calories per half cup, compared to 220 calories per half cup in Simply Pure’s Pumpkin Sauce — which lists pumpkin puree as the second ingredient.

Despite the fruit’s popularity around Halloween and Thanksgiving, pumpkins are versatile and nutritious, and can be enjoyed all year in a variety of dishes. One cup of raw pumpkin contains more than 170 percent of the daily value of vitamin A — which is needed for night vision — plus other carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, making pumpkin a healthy food for your eyes.

Pumpkin is also a good source of potassium and vitamin C and is one of the best sources of beta-cryptoxanthin, a vitamin A carotenoid linked to lower lung and prostate cancer risk, as well as improved joint health

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