by Charles Weller December 06, 2015
Halloween has come and gone, but it is never too late to appreciate the pumpkin. In fact, the sweet, bright-orange squash can be enjoyed year round. Not only are pumpkins super tasty, whether prepared as a plain side dish or a featured dessert, but they can be surprisingly healthy!
Fresh pumpkins are best for preparing the tastiest and most nutritious snacks and dishes. However, be sure to use the smaller variety called sugar pumpkins. Unlike the big round ones that we are used to seeing decorated and carved up for Halloween, the smaller ones have a thick shell and are rich in flavor. Roasting, steaming, boiling, and pureeing are the most common ways to prepare for various recipes. Of which, the list is endless – from diced and steamed to hearty soups and pot pies to nutty breads and cookies to tasty cakes and creamy smoothies! Een the seeds can be enjoyed, roasted pumpkin seeds have a rich peanut-like flavor and besides eating just plain, they can make a tasty addition to salads, soups, breads, and granola. Add a handful when blending your next Superfood smoothie for a quick and easy way to enjoy.
Of course, one does not always have time to prepare the great pumpkin. Thankfully buying it in canned form is a shortcut that is actually still full of its wonderful nutrients and flavors. However, be sure to use an organic puree without any added sugar or preservatives. Often, they are only displayed around holiday times, but just stock up on a few cans and you can enjoy all year round.
In addition to being prepared and enjoyed in so many ways, pumpkins have a great number of health benefits. They are stocked full with vitamins and nutrients that protect eye health and may help fight cancer, promote post-workout recovery, help with weight maintenance, and just make you feel good!
High in vitamin A, pumpkins are good for your eyes. You can get more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake with just a cup of cooked, mashed pumpkin. Like the similarly colored bright orange carrots, they are also rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which the body converts into a form of vitamin A that benefits eyesight even more. The beta-carotene also acts as an antioxidant, which may help fight off certain cancers.
Adding pureed pumpkin to a post-workout snack, such as in a Maple Pumpkin Smoothie. High in potassium, a serving of pumpkin provides even more refueling nutrients than a banana.
With as much as 3 grams of fiber per one cup serving and being low in calories, pumpkins are an excellent source of fiber. In addition to creating a feeling of fullness after eating, which can help ward off hunger pangs and maintain weight-loss, a fiber-rich diet has been proven to increase overall health. You can learn more in the previously posted article “Increase Fiber with a Plant-Based Diet“, which highlights the importance and specific benefits of following a high-fiber diet.
And don’t forget to enjoy the seeds, whether roasted or blended in a smoothie; they contain the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is important in the production of serotonin, which plays a major role in one’s mood. It could be said that eating pumpkin seeds might actually give you a brighter outlook!
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