Did you know that one of our favorite Halloween decorations and Thanksgiving pie fillings actually has numerous health benefits? You guessed it… that round, orange candle holder that we call a jack ‘o lantern and that yummy deep orange “stuff” that helps create a tasty pumpkin pie is actually packed full of nutrients. Ladies and gentlemen, do NOT put down that piece of pumpkin pie, it might just be kind of good for you! (I did say KIND OF.)
I have used pumpkin pie filling to make smoothies and pumpkin protein bars in the past, yet I never picked up a piece of pumpkin pie, that I can remember. Recently, my daughter came home from school with a pumpkin cookie and my best friend and I joked about it being a “healthy cookie”, when I told her how wonderful the crumb-size piece my daughter shared with me was. It got me to thinking… Pumpkin must be pretty darn good for me, if I have been encouraged to use it in protein bars and smoothies, but I didn’t actually know the reasons why. So, like I do when I get a bug to learn more about something, I researched pumpkin so I knew exactly why I was being a good girl for eating it. Let me share my findings!
Pumpkin is rich in antioxidants. In it we find alpha and beta carotene, two antioxidants that are converted into Vitamin A, which helps with our immune function and vision. It is high in fiber, containing about 10 grams in a single cup. As we all know from the recent fiber buzz, it helps to reduce bad cholesterol, helps protect us against heart disease and is great for digestion. How about that?
Well, that’s not all! Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin C, helping our immune systems and regulating cholesterol, once again. It’s a good source of Vitamin E which means it is great for your skin and, research says, it also reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer. You can also add that it is good for its magnesium (healthy bones/teeth), potassium (reduce risk of cardiovascular disease/hypertension) and zinc (bone density/immune health).
PLEASE PASS THE PUMPKIN, right? But wait…there’s more!
I’ve always been excited to gut my pumpkin in order to get those seeds. I sprinkle them with sea salt and bake them on low heat for about 45 minutes. Mmmmmm… But can’t be good, right? Not true. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of protein. Happy and healthy snacking for us, because we can get about 7 grams of protein out of one ounce of these little guys. (Just be sure to go easy on the salt.)
I have a couple of good pumpkin recipes to share, if you’re interested. Just let me know. Again, I’ve only dabbled in smoothies and protein bars. (I cannot tell a lie… I did ask my daughter’s teacher for the cookie recipe so I could get more than a crumb.) However, I do know that there are great recipes out there for pumpkin soup, ravioli, breads and muffins. Check them out and let us know if you find anything particularly interesting.
More importantly (wink, wink), when you’re enjoying that piece of pumpkin pie this season, know that there are some health benefits to that tasty little treat. Think about the filling and enjoy a little bit. Forget about the crust for a little while and celebrate what’s on the inside!
Have a great PUMPKIN season!