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Nutritionist’s notebook:

Pumpkin, squashes & co.

With so many types of pumpkins, squashes and courgettes there’s a lot of choice but some varieties are very seasonal. At this time of the year, we’re used to seeing the bright orange ones in particular but how nutritious are they?


The varieties with orange flesh such as common pumpkin, butternut squash or Hokkaido are rich in beta-carotene. This is a plant pigment that your body converts to vitamin A so pumpkins and squashes with orange insides are a good source of this vital nutrient. And whilst you can get too much vitamin A from animal foods, there’s no such risk with beta-carotene because your body only coverts as much as it needs. In short, beta-carotene is a safe source of vitamin A.

We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, immune system, eye health and vision. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant, protecting your cells and DNA from free radicals that can cause damage.

When it comes to squashes with pale flesh and courgettes, they still contain some beta-carotene but not as much as their brightly coloured cousins. Whilst a small serving of pumpkin (100g) can cover your daily need for vitamin A, a courgette based dish may only cover a third of the recommended intake


The whole squash family also pack a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals. They are a valuable source of vitamins C, K, some B vitamins and minerals such as potassium, copper and manganese. And to top it off, there’s a whole array of plant pigments that act as antioxidants and have health-protective properties!

How about that canned pumpkin you might be using for a pumpkin pie? It’s quite a lot lower in vitamin C than if you cook it from scratch but it’s still excellent for beta-carotene and vitamin K


All pumpkins, squashes and courgettes are a good source of healthy carbs and fibre. If you eat them with skin on, it bumps up your fibre intake even more and adds some antioxidants too. Mind, this is advisable only for the varieties with skin that gets softer when cooked!

All the members of the squash and pumpkin family are low in fat but they contain healthy unsaturated fats which we only need in small amounts. Hence, a portion of a pumpkin or squash-based dish can contribute to your daily intake of these essential fats nicely.


Pumpkins and squashes are extremely versatile and suitable for an endless variety of dishes – slice, dice or stuff them for savoury dishes, cook and blend them to use in cake mixture, bread dough or as pie filling; grate courgettes and use in cake batter or fruit bread. Their neutral taste also makes them perfect for smoothies and soups – the possibilities are endless! Many types are suitable for raw recipes from courgetti (courgette spaghetti) to raw pumpkin pie.


A great source of iron, zinc and protein, pumpkin seeds also contain an extra dose of vitamin K and magnesium. We need vitamin K for healthy blood clotting, our immune system and bone maintenance. Magnesium has a range of important functions in the human body, including nerve and muscle signalling, bone metabolism and the functioning of healthy blood vessels.

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About PlantBased

Welcome to the first ever issue of PlantBased magazine! The times are changing and this is perhaps the most exciting time for the vegan movement that we’ve ever seen. You may be questioning why it is, therefore, that the title of this magazine has changed from Cook Vegan to PlantBased. Everything in this magazine is still vegan and we only want to expand and improve upon the content that you’re used to. However, we believe that if we are to make veganism more accessible for all, it is important that everybody feels a part of it; under our new title we feel we can encourage even more people to embrace a plant based lifestyle. Everybody eats plants. The tricky thing can be convincing people that they needn’t eat anything other than plants. With over 75 plant based recipes and ideas, we think we have the magazine that can prove to anybody that plant based eating is delicious and exciting! The food revolution is only just beginning — I hope you will join us and I look forward to being a part of this revolution together.