Fall is here, and pumpkin-flavored everything is on the menu. Swap the sugary pumpkin latte and pumpkin pie for real pumpkin-based foods (think pumpkin soup or a roasted pumpkin side dish), and your body will thank you: the orange superstar is rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid pigment that gives pumpkin its rich hue and converts to vitamin A in the body, a nutrient that’s important for eye health, the immune system, healthy aging, supple skin and cancer prevention. It’s also full of fiber (more than 1.5 grams per ounce), which fills you up but keeps the pounds at bay.
A cup of cooked pumpkin has more than 550 mg of potassium, which helps replenish electrolytes after a workout. And don’t forget about the seeds! They boast a boatload of nutrition in their own right. Their phytosterols may help lower LDL cholesterol, and just an ounce contains 5 grams of protein. The seeds also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. They make a great snack on their own, or toss on salads, soups and add into a trail mix.
There are a couple of important tips to be aware of before you start chowing down. Those carotenoids can be hard to snag: they’re bound up behind strong cell walls. To reap their benefits, make sure to cook, chop, crush or chew them well. They’re also fat-soluble, meaning they’re absorbed with the help of fats. So drizzle on some olive oil, coconut oil or butter/ghee for a fall-flavored treat.
One more fun fact: Pumpkins, like squashes, are technically fruit, not vegetables. Why? They have seeds. Offer up that bit of info with your treat to Trick or Treaters come Halloween! Enjoy a couple of pumpkin-based recipes this fall.
- 8 small carrots
- 2 parsnips
- 2 cups cooked pumpkin
- 1-inch piece ginger or 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. curry powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. olive or coconut oil, or butter
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 4 cups bone broth
In a medium pot heat oil. Add garlic, cook until fragrant. Add the carrots, parsnips, bone broth and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with a hand blender or let cool and blend in a food processor or blender. Add the coconut milk. If subtle sweetness is desired, add maple syrup to taste. Top with fresh herbs, like chives and thyme, if desired. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and serve.
After scooping out the seeds from a raw pumpkin before roasting or turning into a jack o’ lantern, toss them with about a teaspoon of olive or coconut oil and salt/pepper to taste. Arrange in a flat layer on a cookie tray and bake on 350 F for about 20-30 minutes, tossing once. It’s as easy as (pumpkin) pie!