The fall season is upon us, with October and Halloween right around the corner. One of the most common practices for families is the annual pumpkin carving for jack-o-lanterns. Apart from displaying artistic creativity, pumpkins are a nutritionally dense vegetable that can be used for more than decoration. Below are a few of the health benefits of pumpkin:
• A low calorie vegetable that is rich in dietary fiber.
• Helps control cholesterol and weight with only 30 calories per ½ cup.
• A powerhouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Pumpkin also contains vitamin C and vitamin E.
• May help protect against lung and oral cavity cancers.
• Offers protection from “age-related macular disease” in the elderly.
• A good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folate, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin and pantothenic acid.
• A rich source of minerals including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
• Pumpkin seeds are a concentrated source of protein, and mono-unsaturated fatty acids – good for heart health.
Convinced that pumpkin is more than a seasonal decoration? Here are some different ways to incorporate this super food into your diet:
- Pumpkin and squash – sauté chopped pumpkin with ¼ cup onion and a large, diced, tart apple – such as Granny Smith. Add a touch of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon sage.
- Pumpkin dessert – layer sweetened pumpkin purée with vanilla pudding or low-fat yogurt and granola. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
- Pumpkin muffins – replace oil or applesauce in your favorite recipe with puréed pumpkin.
- Pumpkin soup – make a 30-minute pumpkin soup.
- Toasted pumpkin seeds – wash and rinse pumpkin seeds; toast in pan coated with non-stick spray in 325 ▫ oven for 30 minutes. Toss with seasoning, such as cayenne pepper, if desired. Sprinkle on soups or salad.Written By: Jenny Even, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Hamilton County