Pump Up the Pumpkin

One of my fondest childhood memories of Iowa is driving to The Pumpkin Patch located a few miles from town each October. The arthritic, weathered old farmer wandered his fields with a huge smile on his face. Children ran in all directions searching for the perfect pumpkin to carve into a jack-o’-lantern.

This October, even if you don’t want to carve a spooky face, run in search of canned pumpkin or a small baking pumpkin as a source of health.

A pumpkin is a low-calorie, low-fat vegetable packed with nutrition. High in fiber, one cup of cooked and mashed pumpkin provides three grams of fiber and only 49 calories. In addition, that same amount provides 200 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of the antioxidant vitamin A, which aids in vision and promotes skin and mucous membrane integrity. Pumpkin is also high in vitamin C and potassium.

The anti-oxidant benefits of pumpkin come from the carotenoids present, such as betacarotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. Antioxidants are thought to play a role in cancer prevention. Plus, many nutritionists encourage food sources rather than supplements—making pumpkin an ideal vegetable.

Additionally, the pumpkin seed is packed with its own advantages. Besides being high in fiber, the seed of the pumpkin contains both tryptophan and high levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain linked to mood elevation.

Seeds also contain the plant-based chemicals known as phytosterols, which have been shown in studies to decrease Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol—more commonly known as “bad” cholesterol. Be sure to save those seeds if you do carve a pumpkin, and roast them gently at 350 degrees for 20 minutes on a cookie sheet in the oven for a healthy snack.

For a grown-up alternative to Halloween treats, try out one of my favorite recipes this fall:

Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 6 servings, 1 cup each

1 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup cubed (1/2 inch) peeled sweet potato
1/4 tsp salt
2 14.5 ounce cans fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 15 ounce can pumpkin
1 cup 1% milk (can use skim but less creamy)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives (optional)

Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in flour, curry powder, cumin, nutmeg and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add sweet potato,salt, broth and pumpkin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes until potato is tender, stir occasionally. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.

Place half of the pumpkin mixture in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl. Repeat with remaining half of pumpkin mixture. Return soup to the pan, stir in milk. Cook over medium heat for 6 minutes or until heated through while stirring often. Do Not Boil! Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish with chives if desired.

Calories 121 (21% from fat), Fat 2.8g, Protein 5.1g, Carb 19.7g, Fiber 3.5g, Cholesterol 7mg, Iron 1.5mg, Sodium 565mg, Calcium 85mg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine