Adapted from Reap the health benefits of pumpkin year-round
Halloween marks the time of year when grocery stores fill up with pumpkins. We go crazy over pumpkin carving. And a few souls actually roast and eat the seeds or start dreaming about that pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. But did you know this hearty, fruit-producing vegetable is sooo worthy—you should carve pumpkin into a household staple?
Health benefits of pumpkin
Maybe you’ve roasted your pumpkin seeds before. Or maybe you haven’t—they are a little intimidating, all tangled up in the stringy insides of something that appears to be so darling on the outside. But don’t let looks scare you. Use those precious seeds as medicine. Pumpkin seeds provide:
- phytoestrogens, which help prevent high blood pressure.
- tryptophan, which supports production of serotonin and improves your mood and quality of sleep.
- beta-carotene which helps prevent cancer.
- phytosterols, which reduce our bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Moving on to the meat of its benefits, pumpkin also:
- provides fiber, which helps keep your digestive system moving the toxins out. That fiber helps you feel more full and satisfied, which is a bonus for grain-free folks.
- replenishes your potassium after a workout (it may even muscle that banana out of first position).
- supports healthier vision, skin and bones due to the vitamin A content. According to this Huffington Post article, 1 cup of pumpkin provides more than 200% of the daily vitamin A recommendation.
- supplements your zinc intake. For men, this helps maintain testosterone levels and male sexual health—always a good thing!
How to prepare a pumpkin
So how do you prepare these power gourds of nutrients? First, choose a pumpkin that’s meant for eating, such as a pie, Jarrahdale, cheese, peanut or Cinderella pumpkin. Next:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut your pumpkin across the top to cut off the stem. Then cut it lengthwise in half.
- Scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp and set them aside.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put each half of the pumpkin face down.
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours.
- Scrape the meat of the pumpkin out of the rind, which can be thrown out or composted. Then cut the meat into small pieces and puree it in your food processor.
Try this recipe from takepart.com, for roasting the seeds without the wrestling match.
- Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
- For every 2 cups of seeds and pulp, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (and light salt or other spices as desired) and toss.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the seasoned seeds and pulp in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Stir every 15 minutes, baking for about 50 minutes or until the seeds are crisp and the pulp is caramelized.
- Let cool and enjoy.
How to carve pumpkin into your meal plan
Pack pumpkin seeds as a snack. Sprinkle them onto a salad or vegetable medley for extra crunch. They make the perfect mood-boosting food at a time when we are adjusting to less daylight and Vitamin D.
Before pureeing it, sprinkle it with cinnamon and serve it as a side (instead of squash).
Use the puree in one of a zillion ways. Here are a few of my faves:
- Paleo pumpkin pancakes. Amazing. Grain-free. Easy to make and freeze for future breakfasts on the fly. They also double as sandwich bread in a pinch.
- Paleo pumpkin bars. Eat and energize any time of day, even on the go.
- Paleo chili without tomatoes. This is a gem for me, since tomatoes don’t love me and I miss them dearly.
- Add pumpkin puree or seeds to your smoothie or oatmeal.
Make pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins. Add zucchini for more nutrition. Use pumpkin in sauces instead of tomatoes to avoid nightshades. Spread pumpkin butter onto anything. Experiment with pumpkin soup recipes. Even make paleo pumpkin ice cream. Your options are endless.
For even more information about the health benefits of pumpkin, as well as additional recipes, check out this article on jenreviews.com! Mmmm, pumpkin hummus!
Carve pumpkin into your diet regularly, instead of just during your fall carving craze. You’ll aid digestion, boost your mood and support better health even in the darkest of months!
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.