Long live the deliciousness and health benefits of pumpkin. Just because we’ve already sailed through Halloween and Thanksgiving, it’s not time to put the pumpkin craze to rest. From jack-o-lanterns to pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and pumpkin latte and…this hearty, fruit-producing vegetable adds color and spice to the holidays. But read on to learn the wonders it can do year-round.
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 us 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. Wait—come back and stay with me for a few more minutes!
How to prepare pumpkin
So how do you prepare these power gourds of nutrients?
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut your pumpkin (not your carved one!) 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.
New ways to eat pumpkin
Now that you realize how easy it is to reap the benefits of pumpkins, what exactly can you do with it?
Of course, pumpkin makes many desserts divine. But this is a blog about healthier eating.
Consider packing the seeds as a snack or sprinkling them on a salad or vegetable medley for extra crunch.
And you can perform magic with the puree. Here are my favorite 5 uses:
- Whip up some paleo pumpkin pancakes. Delicious. Easy to make. Super to freeze for future breakfasts on the fly. They also double as sandwich bread in a pinch.
- Use pumpkin instead of, or in combination with, nut butters in healthy baking – bread, cookies, etc. You don’t have to completely abandon the treats!
- Bake paleo pumpkin bars. See notes above about potassium and mood. Eat and energize any time of day, even on the go.
- Create a hearty paleo chili without tomatoes. This is a gem for me, since tomatoes don’t love me and I miss them dearly.
- Add pumpkin to your smoothie (#5 on my list because as much as I want to love smoothies, they just aren’t as satisfying as chewing food).
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!
Take advantage of the plentiful health benefits of pumpkin by incorporating it into your everyday diet, instead of just making it part of your October and November binges and décor!
*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.