Enjoy the health benefits of pumpkins just like our forefathers before us. Native American Indians used pumpkin as a healthy staple in their diets for centuries before the pilgrims landed. Pumpkins continued to be an important crop for the pilgrims because they stored well and provided a nutritious food source during the winter months.
Today, pumpkin flavoring is in everything from candy and coffee to ice cream and doughnuts. Don’t be fooled by this; pumpkins and their seeds are nutrient-dense foods that score high on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI).
Pumpkins Contain Carotenoids Important for Immune Function
Pumpkins and related squashes are good sources of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants belonging to a group of pigments called carotenoids.
- Carotenoids defend the body’s tissues against oxidative damage, helping to prevent chronic diseases and premature aging.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only known carotenoids located in the human retina. They help protect the eye from damage and improve several aspects of visual performance.
Pumpkin is a Versatile Food
Pumpkin makes a great pie but, don’t stop there. Pumpkin puree can be stirred into soups, stews or chilis. You can whip up a pumpkin smoothie by blending pumpkin puree with a banana, spinach or romaine lettuce, a few dates, some non-diary milk and cinnamon and nutmeg. I recommend cooking your own pumpkin puree or using the puree packed in non-BPA containing cartons.
Pumpkins and their seeds are nutrient-dense foods that score high on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.
Easy Pumpkin Puree
Tip: Choose the lighter colored “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins,” they are sweeter and less watery than the orange jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.
- Cut the top from the pumpkin and scrape out the stringy membranes and seeds.
- Cut the pumpkin into large pieces and place in a roasting pan.
- Pour ½ cup water into the bottom of the pan and cover with foil.
- Bake 45-60 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and easily pierced with a fork.
- Scrape the soft pulp from the skin into a food processor or blender and puree.
- Leftover pumpkin puree may be frozen in an airtight container for up to 12 months.
Pumpkin Seeds are Super Foods
When preparing pumpkin puree or carving a jack-o’-lantern, don’t throw away the seeds. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are not only flavorful, they are a super food. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Zinc, calcium and iron