Pumpkins: Fun to Carve, Great to Eat
The pumpkins garnishing our tables and doorsteps are actually a very nutritious harvest fruit that we can enjoy in many ways. This is good news for pumpkin pie eaters!
Pumpkins are part of the squash family and contain large amounts of antioxidants and beta-carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease. Beta-carotene offers protection against other diseases as well as some degenerative aspects of aging.
Pumpkins are also low in fat and calories and high in potassium. Those bright orange pumpkins contain Vitamin C, K, and E, Niacin Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. One cup of pumpkin puree has about 80 calories and 7 grams of fiber.
Pumpkins seeds are extremely nutritious too. Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for both food and medicine. The seeds are rich in amino acids and also contain high amounts of Zinc. Pumpkin seeds contain high quantities of protein, iron and phosphorous along with Vitamins A and E. The oil from pumpkin seeds is high in essential fatty acids which help us to maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves and lubricates all our tissues, including the skin. One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 155 calories along with 7 grams of protein.
Pumpkins have been grown in North America for 500 years and they are plentiful. Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October. In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling, but today pumpkin pie filling is a holiday favorite. Try the healthy recipe below.
- Ingredients – 1 cup ginger snaps (about 16 cookies); 16 oz can pumpkin; 1/2 cup egg whites (about 4); 1/2 cup sugar; 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (1 and 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves); 12 oz can evaporated skim milk.
- Cooking instructions – Preheat the oven to 350°. Grind the cookies in a food processor. Lightly spray a 9″ glass pie pan with vegetable cooking spray. Pat the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the pan evenly. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Store in the refrigerator. Allow to cool.
- Information – Serves 8. Each slice: 165 calories, 1.5 g fat, .5 g saturated fat, 1.5 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g protein.
Remember that pumpkins are versatile! Besides the traditional pumpkin pie, you can also try pumpkin soup, stew, bread, cookies, or even chili. It is also delicious roasted on it’s own with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted and added to a salad or eaten alone as a snack.