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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RDN

Pumpkin Pallooza



Pumpkins are showing up everywhere these days now that fall is officially in the air. Pumpkins are especially in the spotlight at fall fairs—the one that weighs the most; the most artistically carved; or the blue ribbon pumpkin pie. And whose heart doesn’t break as Linus and Sally forego a night of tricks and treats as they spend Halloween hunkered in the pumpkin patch to no avail of meeting up with the Great Pumpkin…wah..wah…


While we think of pumpkins as vegetables, their botanical genus is actually a fruit because they bear seeds. Kind of like the great tomato debate, I suppose. Either way, they are a great source of nutrition.


Like its orange-colored cousins, pumpkin is rich in carotenoids, which are compounds that can function as antioxidants. If you recall from previous blogs, antioxidants neutralize free radicals, stopping them from damaging your cells and protecting against certain cancers.


Pumpkin is loaded with potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber, which are key components in the DASH diet to support heart health. Vitamin C is also an important player in keeping our immune systems in check and in wound healing.


Pumpkin is also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are compounds that support eye health, particularly age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.


While I agree that gutting and carving a pumpkin is fun, it’s a little too exhaustive (let alone messy) for me, so I use canned pumpkin in my baking and cooking recipes. Read the can’s labels carefully! You are looking for only one ingredient on the label—pumpkin! Avoid added ingredients, particularly sugar.


At this time of the year, there’s a wave (and wondrous smell!) of pumpkin goodies that makes its way into candles, bakery muffins and breads, granola and cereals, pancakes, pies, soups, and even spiced coffee and teas. You can use pumpkin puree (aka canned pumpkin) to replace fats (and calories) in some baking recipes. Thanks to a recipe I found on Skinnytaste, I have started to add a half a can of pumpkin puree to my turkey chili recipe. I’ve further experimented and have added it to an eggplant-lentil stew that I make. Delish (!) and I love the golden color that it adds to my dishes. At 30 calories per cup, it also lends a natural sweetness that cuts down the tomatoey-ness (not a word, I know!) of the dish.


For a healthy, protein-rich snack, try mixing ½ cup of canned pumpkin into plain Greek yogurt and top with chopped walnuts, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg.


And for those of you that aren’t so fatigued by the pumpkin-gutting experience as I am, don’t throw away the pumpkin seeds! They are filled with filled with fiber, as well as potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Here’s a recipe to roast the seeds that looks pretty easy: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13768/roasted-pumpkin-seeds


See you in the pumpkin patch!


In Good Health,

Sophie

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