Pumpkin season is officially here, and I am sure you have already noticed this everywhere you go: from the abundance in super markets and farmers market, to the seasonal recipes you’ll find in coffee shops and restaurants, catering tasty pumpkin pies, squash cream soups and pumpkin-spiced lattes. The orange colored dishes match perfectly the fall ambiance in nature. So take advantage of this happily colored veggie being in season by preparing a variety of delicious, warming dishes! And while you’re at it, why not learn a thing or two about the health benefits pumpkin have to offer as well?
Low in calories but packed with beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A), and polyphenolic antioxidants, such as lutein, xanthin, and carotenes, this veggie is definitely one healthy choice for the season. Just 100gr of pumpkin will supply you with your daily requirement for vitamin A, an important vitamin to boost your vision and maintain a healthy looking skin.
Fruits and veggies hued with a bright orange color normally indicate the presence of carotene – a powerful phytonutrient. Carotenes convert into vitamin A in the body, which act as an antioxidant, destroying free radicals and helping to fight degenerative signs of aging. Pumpkins are also a source of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, and a great source of fiber, which promotes a healthier heart.
Pumpkins are considered a low-fat food but they do contain some good fats, including the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. One cup of baked winter squash will provide you with approximately 340mg of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). If you are after the health-supporting fats in pumpkins, than don’t discard the seeds. They contain heart-healthy plant-based omega 3 fatty acids and are a good vegetarian protein source too! You can roast the seeds at 75C degrees for about 20 minutes and eat them as a snack, or in your salads and granola.
A good source of B-complex vitamins, pumpkins will give you energy throughout the day. Combined with the high fiber content they can help regulate blood sugar – important for the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are also a great food choice for expectant mommies, as they contain zinc, folate, protein and vitamin A – important nutrients to support both your and your growing baby’s needs.
How to select and store
When you select a pumpkin go for a whole pumpkin, instead for a cut section. Look for mature pumpkins that feel heavy and firm and have dull, not glossy rinds. Avoid those that have areas that are water-soaked, with cuts and bruises.
Whole pumpkins can be stored for a long time under cool, well-ventilated place at room temperature. Depending upon the variety, they can be stored for one week to six months. Once cut, cover the pieces in a wrap and store in the refrigerator for two-three days. You can also freeze pumpkins for later use, by cutting them into cubes for easy handling after.
I would recommend choosing organic pumpkins, as some reports indicate that pumpkins can pull up contaminants out of the soil.
You probably are already thinking about pumpkin pie, but trust me; there are so many other and healthier ways to enjoy pumpkins that are just as delicious!
You can steam and puree pumpkins for a delicious cream soup, or to add to your morning oatmeal. You can roast a pumpkin with some maple syrup and cinnamon and top up with walnuts for a delicious dessert. You can also add it to smoothies to make a healthy pumpkin spice smoothie (I’ll share my favorite recipe with you soon).
Make sure you rinse the pumpkin under cold water before cutting. You can peel the skin off with a potato peeler; If you are roasting it, you can simply cut the pumpkin lengthwise, remove the seeds and bake. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon when done.
What are some of your favorite pumpkin recipes?
P.S: My next workshop is all about building healthy eating habits, and I’ll be sharing three delicious recipes with you! If you are in Luxembourg, you can register from this link.