Pumpkins, Pumpkins, and More Pumpkins
When most of us think of pumpkins, we think Jack-o-lanterns, and fall decorations. But pumpkins have a wide array of uses, including delicious ones! There are many different types of squashes available today…all sizes, shapes, and textures! All have edible, sweet, soft meat that range from pale yellow to brilliant, bright orange. Most winter squashes can be interchanged with pumpkin and used in place of pumpkin in many recipes. The sweet taste and creamy texture makes delicious pies, cakes, puddings, many savory dishes, AND provides much needed nutrients and health benefits!
TIP: There are decorative gourds that appear inedible. But truth be told, they are just as edible as pumpkins and other winter squashes. Gourds as well as squash, cucumbers and watermelons are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, and are not toxic to humans. They do need extra love when preparing, as preparations can be made to soften the meat and seeds for consumption.
Health Benefits –Pumpkins are rich in many vitamins and minerals, some of which are: Vitamin A, potassium, B vitamins, and fiber, iron, and omega 3’s, which are anti-inflammatory. Just some of the benefits of eating pumpkin and winters squashes are:
- Bone Health – Abundant in antioxidants, pumpkin is surprisingly an important food for bone health. Anti-oxidants help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, both which are at the root of osteoporosis. Pumpkin (and other winter squash) if rich in many nutrients needed for bone health, such as Vitamin A, C, zinc, selenium, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, omega 3’s, and even protein.
- Sharper vision –Vitamin A is essential for eye health, and pumpkins’ brilliant orange coloring supplies beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. One cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Pumpkins are also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that help prevent cataracts, and the development of macular degeneration.
- Weight loss –Pumpkin contains seven grams of fiber per cup which slows digestion and keeps you feeling fuller longer. Pumpkin is also low in calories, only 50 calories per serving. So enjoy your pumpkin pie!
- Younger-looking skin –Consuming pumpkin and orange colored fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene can help protect us from the sun’s wrinkle-causing UV rays. You can also use the pulp to make a great, all-natural facial mask that soothes and exfoliates. Just mix ¼ cup pureed pumpkin, one egg, one tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of milk. Apply, wait for 20 minutes or so and wash it off with warm water.
- Lower Cancer risk –Studies show that people who consume a beta-carotene-rich diet may have a lower risk of some types of cancer, especially prostrate and lung cancer. Vitamins A and C are both anti-oxidants and protect cells against damaging free radicals.
- Protect and Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease – The high anti-oxidant levels Pumpkins contain antioxidants, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, are known to neutralize free radicals, preventing and stopping damage to cells
- Boosts Immunity – Pumpkins contain many nutrients that boost the immune system. They are especially high in beta-carotene which turns to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A can strengthen the immune system and help the body fight infections. People with a Vitamin A deficiency are known to have a weaker immune system.
So eat up and enjoy the season of fresh, whole pumpkin and winter squashes. And don’t be afraid to use the pumpkin and the meat of different squashes in various recipes.
For some of my own Pumpkin recipes: