Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkins aren’t just for carving at Halloween! The flesh of the pumpkin, both fresh and canned, is a great source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and especially vitamin A - a powerful antioxidant that improves your skin and provides immune support.
The phytosterols found both in pumpkin flesh and seeds, commonly known as “pepitas”, have also been linked to heart health and cancer prevention. Pepitas are packed with healthy fats, fiber, iron and protein. They also have tryptophan, which helps release serotonin that balances your mood.
Pumpkins are extremely versatile, their natural sweet taste can be used for spicy or savory dishes, and pepitas add an amazing texture to any plate!
Recipe 1) Homemade Pumpkin Puree. Making your own puree couldn’t be simpler, and it gives you the full benefits of the pumpkin, including the seeds! First take off the stem, slice in half, and roast at 400F for about 30 minutes or until the skin is tender. Once cooled for an hour, scoop out the insides and blend or process until smooth. It couldn’t be easier!
Recipe 2) Get Your Seed Power On! Want a quick snack that packs a healthy punch? Mix pumpkin seeds with your favorite flavor (sea salt, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper flakes, or parmesan) and roast at 350F for 30 minutes or until golden brown, and enjoy! Add “pepitas” to homemade granola. Check out one of Bushwick Nutrition’s old time favorite granola recipe, and just switch the walnuts for pepitas!
Recipe 3) Make fluffy pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin seed garnish. You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite foods to appreciate all the health benefits that pumpkins offer. Mix dry ingredients (whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt) in a large bowl. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, clove or any spice you like. In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin puree (unsweetened or better yet, homemade!), milk, egg, and vanilla extract. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Pour ¼ cup-sized pancakes and garnish with a little maple syrup and toasted pumpkin seeds. Add a scoop of whey protein for a protein boost!
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Spices: ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon of clove or more!
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk or milk alternative
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Recipe 4) Enjoy a delicious Thai-style pumpkin soup. With the right ingredients, soups can be quick, simple and delicious. Red curry paste, vegetable broth, pumpkin puree and coconut milk make for a delicious Thai-inspired soup. Garnish with coconut milk, sliced red chili pepper and cilantro. If you want an added nutrition punch (or crunch), add roasted pumpkin seeds! Recipe from Foodie Crush.
Recipe 5) Roast pumpkin squares. Pumpkin is a great substitute for a starchy carb! Roast at 400F degrees for about 45 minutes. The roasting may vary depending on the pumpkin variety and the size of the cubes. Serve with your favorite protein over a leafy green salad.
- 1 medium sugar pumpkin (about 4 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 4 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
Recipe 6) Make pumpkin mac & cheese. Who said mac & cheese can’t be healthy? Not me! Use whole-wheat pasta, reduced fat cheese, add one cup of pumpkin puree, and enjoy this healthier version of an American classic. Recipe from The Melon Bowl.
Recipe 7) Bake some pumpkin bread! Pumpkin bread can satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth! Mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in one bowl. In a larger bowl, mix sugar and oil with a wooden spoon until combined. Then slowly add egg whites, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and lastly, the contents of the first bowl. Loaf should take about 55 minutes at 350F. When that morning muffin craving comes calling, make the healthier choice. Be sure to add a protein source to counterbalance the carbs! Edited from Deceptively Delicious.
Don’t forget to check out October’s issue of Muscle & Fitness.
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RDN, CDN
Edited by Tamara Cabrero