Food 101: Pumpkins

Halloween is quickly approaching and it is time to start hunting for the best pumpkin in the patch! Every year I choose the largest pumpkin I can find so I have the most area on its plump surface to carve a spooky face or scene that trick-or-treater’s can appreciate. Sometime I save the inner “guts” after hollowing out the pumpkin and roast off the pumpkin seeds for a crunchy seasoned snack! The pumpkin is a unique squash in that it is an iconic Halloween decoration. It contains seeds that can be eaten roasted whole or shelled, and its bright orange and densely nutritious flesh can be incorporated into both sweet and savory dishes.

Pumpkins exist within the squash plant family, and were cultivated for the first time 5500 years B.C in Mexico. The word pumpkin originated from the Greek term pompon meaning “large melon.” In fact, certain types of pumpkins reach weights of around 75 pounds! The bright orange pigment coloring the pumpkin flesh is a result of the high concentration of lutein and alpha/beta carotene. These colorful pigments contribute healthful properties when consumed. Keep reading for a deeper look into the health benefits of including pumpkin in your diet!

Why is it Healthy?

One cup of mashed pumpkin contains:

  • 3 grams of dietary fibre
  • Just over 200% of your daily Vitamin A requirements
  • Almost 20% of your daily Vitamin C
  • 0% of your daily Vitamin E
  • 16% of you daily potassium requirements
  • Over 5% of your daily requirements of many B complex vitamins <B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9)

The diverse array of B Complex vitamins present in pumpkins play an essential role in maintaining your body’s energy production, metabolic system, and nervous system function. On top of that, pumpkin is a storehouse of potent antioxidant vitamins including vitamins A, C, and E that help reduce oxidative damage to cells in the body linked to reduced risk of cancer. Research shows that pumpkin consumption may be associated with lower gastrointestinal cancer risk.

In terms of weight management, pumpkin contains a satisfying source of soluble fibre that provides bulk, slows digestion, and promotes satiety. This indirectly helps to manage appetite, making it easier to control portions! Pumpkin is also great to include in a post-exercise snack to help replenish the body with potassium, an electrolyte that is lost in sweat during activity. Why not try adding cooked pumpkin into your smoothie after your exercise routine? Whizz together mashed pumpkin, frozen banana, vanilla Greek yogurt, milk, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and you’ve got yourself a delicious post-work out pumpkin pie smoothie!

Including Pumpkin in your diet

Choose a pumpkin that is heavy for its size and firm with consistent coloring. Be sure to avoid any pumpkin that have open gashes or damage to the outer skin, as this will accelerate spoilage. Pumpkins can be stored in a cool place (above freezing temperature) for at least 3 months and up to 6 months time!

Prepare the pulp by carefully cutting open the pumpkin with a sharp knife and scrape out the stringy guts and seeds. You can then cut pumpkin into small chunks and remove the skin using a potato peeler. Boil chunks in water just to cover for 10-15 minute or until the flesh is fork tender. Steaming or baking the pumpkin are two other options. In general, a 5 lb pumpkin will yield about 4 cups of cooked and mashed pumpkin pulp!

Recipe Ideas:

  • Harvest Pumpkin Soup (from this months newsletter)
  • Pumpkin Muffins
  • Pumpkin Ravioli
  • Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
  • Pumpkin Parfait
  • Pumpkin and Lentil Casserole
  • Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
  • Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chunky Pumpkin Chili
  • Pumpkin Pancakes

Did you know that…

Pumpkins seeds are an excellent source of iron? One-quarter cup of shelled pumpkin seeds or two tablespoons of pumpkin seed butter provides 15% of your total daily iron requirements. If you are vegan, vegetarian or are at risk for low iron levels, try adding pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal or switch from peanut to pumpkin seed butter on your toast!

October 1, 2014
Revive Wellness