If you’re like most people you encounter pumpkins three times a year. You –
- Carve a Jack ‘o’ Lantern for Halloween and throw it out on Nov. 1
- Buy a pumpkin pie from the bakery or the frozen food section of the supermarket for Thanksgiving dinner
- Buy pumpkin spice latte in the fall because it’s a modern, seasonal coffee rite
Ok, maybe you get pumpkin spice candles, too – or pumpkin-scented soaps. If you leave your yearly pumpkin consumption to these run-of-mill engagements, you’re missing out on a flavorful and nutritious post-Thanksgiving treat.
Pumpkin is More Than a Seasonal Oddity – It’s Good for Your Health
One of the most nutrient-dense fruits you can eat, pumpkin has:
Potassium, which has been shown to lower blood pressure and protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia
It’s packed with dietary fiber to aid digestion and suppress your appetite by making you feel full longer
A serving of pumpkin has 17% of the DRV of Vitamin C, and no cholesterol, fat or sodium.
It has one of the highest levels of Vitamin A of any food – a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of pumpkin puree boasts 246% of the daily allowance of Vitamin A. This sight-boosting antioxidant keeps your skin looking young and helps prevent lung cancer.
The orange pigment in pumpkin is called beta-carotene. It’s linked with Vitamin A for eye health, along with bell peppers, spinach and other colorful fruits and veggies. Beta-carotene helps you retain cognitive function as you age. Along with lycopene, another colorful antioxidant found in grapefruit, it’s been shown to neutralize cancer-causing free radicals.
NOTE: Too much Vitamin A is toxic, so you don’t need to take a supplement if you eat lots of fruits and veggies with beta carotene and Vitamin A.
Few people consider pumpkin as a fruit to use year-round since pumpkin season only lasts October through December. Include this fruit in your cooking by using canned pumpkin the rest of the year. Look for sugar and syrup-free brands from Trader Joe’s or Farmer’s Market
You can make pumpkin pie or drink pumpkin smoothies any time of year. And don’t neglect pumpkin seeds!
Save Those Pumpkin Seeds- They’re Just as Nutritious as the Puree
Trade in potato chips or Cheetos for the antioxidant-rich, salt-free crunch of pumpkin seeds. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 180 calories, and lots of wound-healing zinc. It also contains 74% percent of the DRV of manganese for strong bones and protection against cancer, plus sizable amounts of protein and iron.
And a quarter-cup of seeds has 48 % of the DRV of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds offer more magnesium than the DRV in Swiss chard, fish, spinach or soybeans. Magnesium is essential for keeping your nervous system and muscles working properly.
Magnesium deficiency is a serious issue in the U.S., with over 80 percent of Americans not getting enough of this mineral in their diets. Lack of magnesium causes anxiety, muscle weakness, cramps, heart problems, dizziness and close to a dozen other ailments A handful of pumpkin seeds, alone or in trail mix, goes a long way toward alleviating magnesium deficiency.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, 3.5 ounces of pumpkin seeds have 600 mgs of tryptophan, the same relaxing amino acid found in turkey. Forego sleeping pills, and eat some pumpkin seeds. (Cheese, cherry juice and chamomile tea are other snooze-inducing foods.)
How to Buy Fresh Pumpkins for Cooking
If you want to use puree straight from the pumpkin instead of a can, smaller pumpkins contain sweeter puree, the kind you use in pies, smoothies or muffins. Uncut pumpkins last up to two months in a cool, dry pantry.
How to Make Pumpkin Smoothies and Other Treats
Instead of taking chances on pumpkin spice drinks from McDonalds or Starbucks, make your own at home where you have control over the ingredients. The same goes for pumpkin pies made from scratch at home. It takes a little longer to prepare, but you have control over the amount of sugar and salt that goes in the recipe.
Combine pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin with yogurt, coca powder, cinnamon and flaxseeds in the blender for a delicious smoothie.
Add fresh or canned pumpkin, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to steel-cut oatmeal for a heart fall or winter breakfast.
Making your own pumpkin spice coffee is easy. Mix freshly ground coffee and pumpkin pie spice. Brew as usual in a drip coffeemaker
For lunch or a side dish at dinner, add pureed pumpkin to tortilla soup or vegetable soup.
And finally, make your own pumpkin spice latte by mixing brewed coffee, pumpkin puree and vanilla almond milk in a saucepan with pumpkin pie spice and stevia. See the details here.
Add pumpkin to your list of fresh fruits and vegetables on your master grocery list. The more you have to choose from, the more satisfied you’ll be with your healthy diet, especially if you’re a new convert.
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