When I try to paint a picture in my mind of Autumn, I instantly see colored leaves falling from the trees; I feel them crunching them beneath my feet. I hear the sounds of football helmets smashing together as the crowd roars in the background. I smell fresh apple cider and baked apple crisp. But it just wouldn’t be fall without pumpkins!
If the only thing you’ve ever done with a pumpkin is carve it and fill it with a candle, you’re not alone. Most people tend to think of pumpkins as little more than a holiday decoration or pie filling. Loaded with antioxidants and disease-fighting vitamins, these are orange gourds are one of the most nutritious fruits out there.
Why we love them
October’s signature fruit packs a punch in the way of nutrition. Although they may look festive around your home or office, just a cup of mashed pumpkin packs more than 200% of your daily recommended vitamin A, which is crucial for healthy vision, brain, and immune system functioning. Pumpkins are rich in alpha and beta-carotene, two nutrients that have been associated with longevity. In fact, these free-radical-neutralizing carotenoids can help keep the skin wrinkle-free. And to think, those powerful carotenoids are what gives pumpkins their orange hue.
Although you may have heard bananas being referenced as “nature’s energy bar”, cooked pumpkin actually has more refueling potassium. Potassium helps restore the body’s electrolytes post-workout. Why choose pumpkin over a banana? A cup of pumpkin contains 564 milligrams of potassium, versus banana’s 422 milligrams. Plus, banana is higher in natural sugars (14 grams per banana), more likely to spike your insulin levels than pumpkin (3.2 grams per cup).
Treasure in the Seeds
It’s not just flesh of the pumpkin that’s good for you. Pumpkin seeds are extremely rich in zinc, magnesium, potassium, protein, essential fatty acids and B vitamins, which are important for immunity, energy, and balanced hormones. They also contain high levels of phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol and help prevent certain forms of cancer.
These little treasures may also help improve our mood. Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, an important amino acid for the production of serotonin, one of the major players when it comes to our mood. Just a handful may help keep your outlook bright, and your energy, immunity, and overall health soaring.
The best way to prepare these is to dehydrate them or roast them in your oven on a low heat setting (no more than 170ºF) for about 15-20 minutes. Feel free to sprinkle them with a natural salt, like Himalayan salt.
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater
There’s no end to what you can make with this sweet and savory squash. Pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin chili, pumpkin curry — if it has pumpkin in it, you can be sure the dish will be good. From breakfast to dessert — and everything in between! — these recipes will have you running to the kitchen.
Although the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkins is perfectly edible, look for the sweet or pie pumpkin varieties for cooking, which are smaller and sweeter. Your pumpkin should have a few inches of stem left and be hard and heavy for its size. Figure one pound of raw, untrimmed pumpkin for each cup finished pumpkin puree. Store uncut pumpkins in a cool dark place for up to two months.
Use pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin in place of oil or butter in any baking recipe
Make a quick treat of pumpkin chocolate yogurt by combining full fat, unsweetened yogurt, pumpkin puree, honey, cinnamon and cocoa powder.
Or, try some of these good-for-you recipes that incorporate pumpkin: