These days, “superfoods” are all the rage, right? There are reports about the nutrition and value about foods that maybe we don’t eat often enough, or reserve for certain times of the year or holidays. Pumpkin is a great example of just such a food.
Thinking of pumpkin as a nutritious super food can be a challenge. After all, when you hear the word “pumpkin” it probably conjures the common image of a dessert plate, sweet and smooth and covered in whipped cream. According to nutritionists, we should be thinking of pumpkin more often than during the annual Charlie Brown cartoon or as just a delicious way to cap off a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.
Pumpkin is a vegetable, regardless of how we have traditionally prepared and eaten it. In fact, pumpkin is a nutrient-rich super food that has a great number of health benefits. Let’s take a look at why pumpkin should get its just desserts… beyond desserts.
A Well-Rounded Vegetable
Surprisingly, the list of healthy nutrients in pumpkin is almost endless. Starting with the basic vitamins and minerals we all know, pumpkin has a healthy amount of vitamins C and E, and is also a rich source of potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin is right up there with other super foods in the dietary fiber category.
Pumpkin also contains two lesser known elements called carotenoids, which are alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These carotenoids, found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are fat-soluble compounds that are specifically linked to decreasing the risk of a number of cancers, as well as lowering the risk for heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Beta carotene is another important antioxidant. Foods rich in beta carotene, like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots, have the potential to lower cholesterol and to slow the aging process of our vital organs. Antioxidant rich foods, like pumpkin, are key to fighting the free radicals which attack our healthy cells.
And, it’s not just the flesh, the insides, of the pumpkin that is healthy. The seeds from the pumpkin also earn their super food status. Even the seeds, or pepitas, , contain high concentrations of phosphorous, zinc, copper, selenium, and other nutrients. The seeds also have essential Omega 3 fatty acids and even the amino acid tryptophan, known for its anti-depressant benefits. So, as you see, the pumpkin has a lot more to offer than you might think.
Thinking Outside the Pie Pan
Of course, pumpkin is associated first with pie. Beyond pie, you probably know all about making pumpkin muffins or cake. These are great and delicious, but trying to branch out into more pumpkin dishes may take a little more imagination.
Have you ever tasted pumpkin in anything other than baked goods? It really does not taste like pumpkin pie at all. That flavor comes from the spices used in the pie, like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Because pumpkin basically has a mild flavor, you have a lot of room to be creative when using it in cooking.
Pumpkin is truly versatile enough to go into soup, chowder, stews, casseroles, and other main dishes. You can puree pumpkin and add to soups as a thickener and to add great fiber and nutrition. Try roasting pumpkin and mashing like you would any squash. Flavor with herbs, salt, and pepper for added taste. You can steam it, boil it, or puree it to use in a variety of other recipes, like pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. The seeds, of course, can be roasted in a number of ways, then added to cereal, trail mix, or salads.
For a real different twist, and a very pretty presentation, scoop out the flesh from several small pumpkins, chop up and add to your choice of meat, vegetables, rice or bread cubes, and seasonings. Then stuff the pumpkin shells with the mixture and bake to make an entrée that your guests won’t soon forget. Doesn’t that sound delicious? Of course, using seasonal items like dried cranberries and toasted nuts can dress up your Thanksgiving table, but don’t feel confined only to the holidays!
Pumpkin has definitely earned its place among the top super foods for a healthy diet. Colorful, nutritious, delicious, and oh so versatile – all the things a super food should be!
(P.S. – just wanted to give you a heads up – if you go get signed up for A Latte Life Newsletter, you’ll be able to get your own copy of a *Freebie* recipe booklet featuring Pumpkin – but only if you sign up by Friday!)