My favorite time of year is upon us again. Sweaters, boots, fires in the fireplace, reading books while sipping hot cocoa, leaves changing colors and ah yes — pumpkins. There is so much to do with this nutritional powerhouse of a squash. We start to see them in September, then by November they are gone. So get your pumpkin fix in now.
It is not uncommon to crave pumpkin as the weather shifts from warm to cold. Pumpkin is considered a warming fruit to nourish your body as the temps start to fall. Pumpkin is rich in fiber, which slows digestion – so it will keep you feeling fuller longer. There are seven grams of fiber in 1 cup of canned pumpkin. That’s more than what you’d get in two slices of whole-grain bread. Pumpkin is also loaded with vitamin A and vitamin C, so it is a natural choice to boost the immune system and help to fight colds.
Have you ever used raw pumpkin to bake with? I tried this last year and it was an absolute disaster. I have since learned that there are specific pumpkins that are best for consumption. Sugar pumpkins are the smallish, round pumpkins that you should be looking for in terms of cooking. They are sweeter and less fibrous than Jack-O-Lantern-sized pumpkins.
5 simple ways to consume pumpkin:
Get a small sugar pumpkin, remove the seeds, dice it up, drizzle olive oil, roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes checking after 10 to prevent burning. Sprinkle sea salt and add to a salad with toasted pumpkin seeds and pomegranate. YUM
Get a small sugar pumpkin, remove the seeds, dice it up, then sauté in a large skillet with peeled and diced sweet potato plus olive oil. Add a touch of cayenne and sea salt if you wish. This makes a terrific side dish to chicken, beef or anything vegetarian.
You can add a can of organic pumpkin to numerous different soups or stews. This will increase the fiber content of your dish and give additional antioxidant and micronutrient benefits. Add pumpkin to a pot of chili, lentil soup, vegetable soup, carrot/ginger soup, or any soup of your choice. It gives a delicious flavor and packs a huge nutritional punch.
Pumpkin bread or muffins are a delicious, nutritious and festive treat at this time of year for kids or adults. Choose a recipe that has minimal sugar. Swap out all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour to help increase fiber content.
I should also mention that pumpkin is great for dogs. Raw, canned or pumpkin seeds have all been recommended by veterinarians to help with digestive issues, diabetes and to keep a dog’s coat soft and shiny. If you are using canned pumpkin, make sure it it organic with no added sugar.