Pumpkin really is GREAT! It's more than that huge round orange ball we carve out every October or the pie we eat in November. Thinking of pumpkin as a nutritious super food can be a bit puzzling. After all, isn't the image that comes to mind sweet and smooth and covered in whipped cream? But, according to nutritionists, we should be thinking of pumpkin more often than during the annual Charlie Brown cartoon or as a delicious way to top off a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.
Pumpkin is a vegetable, regardless of those images. In fact, pumpkin is a nutrient-rich super food that has a great number of health benefits. Let's take a look at why pumpkin should get its just desserts... beyond desserts.
A Well-Rounded Vegetable
The list of nutrients in pumpkin is almost endless. Starting with the basic vitamins and minerals we all know, pumpkin has a healthy amount of vitamins C and E, and is a rich source of potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin is also right up there with other super foods in the dietary fiber category.
Pumpkin also contains two lesser known elements called carotenoids, which are alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds that are specifically linked to decreasing the risk of a number of cancers, as well as lowering the risk for heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Beta carotene is an important antioxidant. Foods rich in beta carotene, like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots, have the potential to lower cholesterol and to slow the aging process of our vital organs. Antioxidant rich foods, like pumpkin, are key to fighting the free radicals which attack our healthy cells and can cause many illnesses.
Thinking Outside the Pie Pan
Of course, pumpkin is associated first with pie. Beyond pie, many folks know about making pumpkin muffins or cake. These are great and delicious, but trying to branch out into more pumpkin dishes takes a little more imagination.
But, first to clarify; no, pumpkin does not taste like pumpkin pie. That flavor comes from the spices used in the pie, like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Because pumpkin basically has very little flavor of its own, it will taste like whatever you want it to taste like.
For a real different twist, and a very pretty presentation, scoop out the flesh from several small pumpkins, chop up and add to your choice of meat, vegetables, rice or bread cubes, and seasonings. Then stuff the pumpkin shells with the mixture and bake to make an entrée that your guests won’t soon forget.
Pumpkin has definitely earned its place among the top super foods for a healthy diet. Colorful, nutritious, delicious, and oh so versatile – all the things a super food should be!