The Versatile Pumpkin
When Halloween approaches, pumpkins are everywhere – at the market, on your front step, in decorations.
Another place they should be? On your plate!
Pumpkins are one of the most versatile vegetables around. There is so much more to do with them than just making traditional pumpkin pie.
- Pumpkin soup is rich and hearty.
- Pumpkin is also delicious in pasta dishes, such as pumpkin ravioli.
- Roasted pumpkin adds a wonderful flavor to stews and side dishes.
- Pumpkin is great in desserts: pumpkin dip for apples, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bars and pumpkin ice cream
Pumpkin packs a nutritional punch
Pumpkin is not only tasty but also packed with nutrition.
One cup of cooked pumpkin has 3 grams of fiber, no fat or cholesterol, and only 49 calories.
Pumpkin gets its orange color from being rich in the antioxidant beta carotene, and pumpkin gives you 245% of your daily dose of vitamin A from a one-cup serving! Pumpkin also contains vitamins C and E, potassium, calcium, iron and lutein.
Here’s what else pumpkin has to offer:
- Beta carotene makes your eyes healthier, can help boost your immune system, and can lower your cancer risk.
- Lutein may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Potassium helps your nerves and muscles work well and keeps your blood pressure in check.
- Magnesium helps keep bones strong and aids in heart health by stabilizing heart rhythm and preventing abnormal blood clotting.
- Pumpkins contain bone-building calcium, too.
Pumpkins seeds are their own nutritional powerhouses, being high in:
- Heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.
- Vitamin A
- B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, and folate.
Pumpkin seeds are also high in calories, though – a half cup contains nearly 400 calories -- so don’t overdo it!
Research studies have documented some of the health benefits of pumpkin seeds, especially for men. For example:
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, important for arthritis relief.
- The essential fatty acids in pumpkin seeds reduced benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH, a condition that can lead to prostate cancer.
- Zinc in pumpkin seeds (34% of your daily value in half a cup) aided in bone formation and the prevention of bone loss in elderly men.
- Pumpkin seeds also contain phytosterols, which have cholesterol-lowering properties.
Pick your pumpkin
When choosing a pumpkin for cooking, make sure you pick a pie pumpkin. These are smaller and sweeter than carving pumpkins.
Canned pumpkin can be used in recipes that call for pumpkin puree.
If using fresh pumpkin, save the seeds and roast them yourself – see our recipe below.