Many people are surprised when they hear there are pumpkin health benefits. After all, a lot of us have come to think of these gourds as Halloween decorations, not food. Think about it. If someone says the word “pumpkin”, are you more likely to think of a Jack-O-Lantern, or a side dish?
For those of us who do eat them, it’s typically exclusively in the form of a rich, calorie-packed pie, or a teaspoon for flavoring our favorite fall latte (provided there’s any pumpkin at all and it’s not just artificially flavored).
None of those aforementioned options imply that there are pumpkin health benefits worth knowing about. However, the truth of the matter is that these veggies are great for you. It’s all in how you prepare them. They are very high in beta carotene among other antioxidants. They also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals as well as flavonoids, lutein and xanthin which are great for your eye health.
Because of this high nutrient density, pumpkin health benefits are extensive. This has made it among the most popular field crops grown on the planet. It is sold for both its fruit and its seeds, which are also edible and highly nutritious (both in the shell or shelled).
Like some of its cousins in the squash families, pumpkins come in a large number of different varieties. Each one has its own unique color, shape and size. They also have their own individual flavors and textures.
That said, the typical form of pumpkin that we see in grocery stores at this time of year has an outer skin in orange or yellow – though occasionally we see them in green, white, gray, red and brown, too. The skin has a think type of rind and a vibrantly colored pulp. It is the pulp that is eaten along with the seeds – with or without their shells.
The seeds are high in vitamins and minerals but also protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The pulp of the pumpkin is very low in calories. There are only 26 calories per 100 grams of the fruit. Moreover, it does not contain any cholesterol or saturated fat. It is often a food recommended for weight reduction and for cholesterol control.
To choose a good pumpkin for cooking, select a variety sold at the grocery store in the produce section. These have been grown with a focus on cooking as opposed to simply being used for carving. Choose a whole pumpkin instead of one that has been chopped in advance. Otherwise, your best option would be canned, if you are seeking the full nutrient value. Look for a pumpkin that looks fully matured and is heavier than it looks. It should have a stout-looking stem and when you tap it, it should have a slightly woody sound. Avoid those with bruises, cuts and wrinkles on the surface.
The following dishes are some easy and delicious options that contain either fresh or canned pumpkin. When you shop for the canned variety, just make sure you check the ingredients. Many canned pureed pumpkin products contain either pie spices – which are great for making pie but terrible for your savory dishes – or are actually made partially or entirely of other forms of squash, which makes it difficult to get the full pumpkin health benefits.
Once you have your ingredients ready, it’s time to start creating these delicious dishes.