With winter approaching, and how can we forget the imminent arrival of Halloween, pumpkins are officially in season. Pumpkins are more than just the base for carved jack-o-lanterns though, they are also amazingly healthy as they are packed full of beneficial nutrients!
Take a look at the top FIVE nutritional benefits of pumpkins
- Pumpkins are high in vitamin A and a single cup of cooked pumpkin contains 200 percent of your RDA of this essential vitamin. Vitamin A is especially important for maintaining good eyesight – especially in dim light.
- High in fiber, pumpkins are a great food for weight loss. Fiber fills you up without providing any calories and pumpkins provide three grams per cupful and only 49 calories. Pumpkins are the dieter’s friend!
- Pumpkins are high in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants including beta carotene. They also contain plant sterols – another cancer-fighting nutrient.
- That same cancer-fighting beta carotene is also known for its wrinkle-defying properties. Yes, eating pumpkins can help you stay looking younger for longer.
- While most people know that bananas contain potassium, an essential mineral that plays an important part in the regulation of heart rhythm, blood pressure and muscle contractions, only a few people realize that gram-per-gram, pumpkins actually contain more! This makes them an ideal post-workout food.
Now you know why you should be eating more pumpkin, here are some delicious recipes that make the most of this super seasonal ingredient.
Pumpkin pie shake – makes 4 servings
2 cups of reduced fat vanilla ice cream – use fat free yogurt if you want to cut some calories
1 cup boiled pumpkin, mashed and allowed to cool
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons of fat-free whipped cream
Combine first five ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Pour 3/4 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 glasses. Top each with about 2 teaspoons whipped cream; sprinkle with the additional pumpkin-pie spice, if desired.
Fat 2.8 g
Protein 6.1 g
Carbohydrate 38 g
Fiber 1.4 g
Pecan-Topped Pumpkin Bread – makes 12 servings
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 15 ounces)
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 large eggs
2/3 cup water
15-ounce cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (up to allspice) in a bowl.
Place sugar, egg substitute, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add 2/3 cup water and pumpkin, beating at low speed until blended. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Spoon batter into 2 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle pecans evenly over batter. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
Note: This recipe makes two loaves. Freeze the extra bread, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to one month. Omit the pecans completely or substitute chopped walnuts if you prefer. Check the bread after 50 minutes of baking – you may need to cover the loaves with aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes to prevent overbrowning.
Fat 6.6 g
Protein 3.4 g
Carbohydrate 32.3 g
Fiber 1.2 g
Classic pumpkin pie – makes 12 servings
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated low-fat milk
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
15-ounces cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon Amaretto
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Position oven rack to lowest position.
Preheat oven to 425°.
To prepare filling, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and stir with a whisk until smooth.
To prepare crust, roll dough into an 11-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under and flute.
Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on lowest oven rack. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes or until almost set. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the amaretto and powdered sugar, and beat until blended. Serve with pie.
Fat 7.4 g
Protein 4.1 g
Carbohydrate 35.3 g
Fiber 3 g
Pumpkin and tomato curry – makes 4 servings
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Madras
2 1/2 cups water
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Nonfat plain yogurt, for garnish
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium-high heat. Add pumpkin and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes more. Add tomatoes, curry powder and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin or squash is tender but not mushy, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with yogurt.
Fat 4 g
Carbohydrates 23 g
Protein 4 g
Fiber 4 g
Of course, there is nothing to stop you using pumpkin as a tasty, lower calorie alternative to mashed potatoes or, one of my favorites, mixing mashed pumpkin with oatmeal. However you use it, you’ll be sure to be getting your quota of essential vitamins and minerals.