Body Blog: Hey There, Pumpkin
We talk about pumpkin around here a LOT. A lot, a lot. But we can’t help it; the stores and restaurants only bring out their pumpkin goodness for a few months every year and we’re trying to soak up as much of the tasty goodness as we can before it goes away. And we’re left with nothing. Except winter-induced Seasonal Affect Disorder. Sigh.
But there’s another reason to be obsessed with pumpkin; beyond tasting amazing (especially in Hershey’s Kiss form), pumpkin is GREAT for you. It’s full of antioxidants, nutrients and a bunch of other great stuff your body needs. If the only pumpkin you’re enjoying comes in a pie crust, you’re doing your body a disservice. Look at these facts, grab yourself some pumpkin, cut a funny little face into it, then eat the rest.
Pumpkin is full of Vitamin A, most in the form of beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps to neutralize free radicals in the body! Sounds confusing, but believe us, it’s a good thing! Studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in beta carotene are less likely to develop certain forms of cancer than those who don’t get enough beta-carotene in their diet. Nice.
“Is canned okay?” – YES! Plain canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is still full of beta-carotene and great to use in recipes! One serving of canned pumpkin contains 300% of your Recommended Daily Intake for Vitamin A! One serving also counts as a serving of vegetables (look mom – I’m eating my vegetables at college!) and contains five grams of keep-you-full fiber. Canned pumpkin is faster than scooping out a pumpkin and preparing the flesh for use, and at only 40 calories per half-cup serving canned, it’s good for your insides and your outsides (AKA hips).
Eat the seeds! – Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper and essential fatty acids. Protein helps to keep you full, potassium lowers your risk for hypertension, and zinc helps boost your immune system year-round and can help build dense bones! But wait – there’s more. Pumpkin seeds are also full of fiber; contain L-tryptophan, a compound naturally effective against depression; and can act as an anti-inflammatory. Just take the seeds that you scoop out of a pumpkin, wash ‘em, toss with some olive oil and salt and roast in the oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes (or until desired crispiness). It’s a super easy snack that’s much healthier than the Jimmy John’s you were gonna order.
If you’re stumped on ideas for incorporating pumpkin into your life, here’s a good place to start, courtesy of our favorite healthy chef, Hungry Girl. It’s her southwestern-inspired pumpkin soup, that is super filling without being heavy. It makes a lot so share the healthy benefits with your friends it or freeze it for later.
Sassy Salsa Pumpkin Soup
Non-stick cooking spray
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
4 cups Fat Free broth (chicken or vegetable)
15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
3/4 cup salsa (this is where you can add or reduce the spiciness)
Optional toppings: shredded reduced-fat or fat-free cheese, and reduced-fat or fat free sour cream
Spray pot with non-stick cooking spray and heat pan on medium. Add garlic, chili powder and cumin, and stir for one minute. Add broth to the spices, and bring to a simmer. Add pumpkin and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. This soup can be served with a sprinkle of cheese and a little fat free sour cream on top. Serves 4.