Fall is upon us, and with the change of the season comes changes in seasonal fruits and vegetables. One of the most delicious fall vegetables is also a nutrition powerhouse: the pumpkin! Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin A, amongst many other beneficial vitamins and minerals. The antioxidant properties of pumpkin can help to prevent cell damage, and other nutrients found in pumpkin aid in the health of your eyes and digestive system. While the “meat” of the pumpkin is a great addition to a healthy diet, the seeds found inside are packed with nutrition as well. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are another a terrific source of minerals. In addition, these seeds also contain protein and the heart healthy monounsaturated fats that can lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise the “good” cholesterol.
Use these tips from the American Dietetic Association to add pumpkin to your diet in fun new ways:
- Pumpkin’s orange flesh has a mild, sweet flavor that can be cooked and eaten like a winter squash.
- Cook mashed pumpkin with chicken broth, fat-free half-and-half, nutmeg, onion and other spices for pumpkin soup.
- Add fresh cooked or canned pumpkin to your favorite pancake batter.
- Blend a pumpkin smoothie. Whirl pumpkin, fat-free milk, frozen vanilla yogurt, a dash of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon in a blender.
- Use pulp and whole-grain flour for healthy baked goods, such as muffins and pumpkin breads. To reduce cholesterol and saturated fats, substitute egg whites for whole eggs.
- Stuff ravioli with sweet pumpkin instead of meat for a low-fat alternative.
- Don’t forget the seeds. Roast them in the oven with a small amount of olive oil.
Try this recipe for Spicy Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) from Cooking Light:
- 1 cup unsalted pumpkinseed kernels
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ancho or chipotle chile pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add kernels to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Remove from pan; cool completely.