Just because Halloween has passed doesn’t mean pumpkins have gone away! The month of November is still full-blown pumpkin season. Not only is the flavor of pumpkin quintessentially fall, pumpkin’s healthy nutrition will carry you into cold season feeling as healthy as ever.
Pumpkins may be classically used for jack-o-lanterns, but their nutritional bona fides are anything but scary. Their bright orange hue is due to the high beta-carotene content, which is an antioxidant that is the precursor to vitamin A. Research shows that eating foods rich in beta-carotene can protect the body from developing heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants like beta-carotene are like free-radical firefighters in the body, putting out small flames before any real damage can be done [i] [ii].
Pumpkin is also a great source of fiber. Even canned pumpkin puree has 7g of fiber in each cup — that’s about a third of your daily needs! Fiber isn’t just for grandparents. Everyone needs fiber to keep the body’s system for processing carbohydrates healthy. It slows the release of sugar into the blood stream, so it allows the body to get the carbohydrate energy source it needs without overloading the system. The fiber in pumpkin also helps keep you fuller longer, so adding pumpkin to balanced meals with protein and some fat is a healthy way to fill up.
Unfortunately, so many pumpkin products are laden with sugar — pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins! Let pumpkin add it’s own natural sweetness to savory dishes for a healthy and flavorful balance. Try this recipe for roasted pumpkin and sweet potato pilaf.
Canned pumpkin is convenient and healthy — just make sure you choose plain pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling! Add it to oatmeal with cinnamon and a little honey for a seasonal treat.
But if you want to take advantage of the beautiful pumpkins you see at the farmer’s market or grocery store, with just a little preparation they’ll have your kitchen smelling like fall. Be sure to choose a cooking pumpkin labeled sugar pumpkin or pie pumpkin, usually of the Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina, Cinderella or Fairy Tale variety [ii].
From there, you can roast, steam, or bake pumpkin pieces and throw them in the food processor or use a hand mixer to process it into a puree. Roasting the seeds is tasty way to use the whole pumpkin and cut down on food waste. Making a big batch and freezing is also a great idea.
Choosing a pumpkin and breaking it down to bake it might seem daunting, but it can be a great fall activity to do with family or friends. Create warm memories this season with pumpkin.