Halloween may have you thinking about crazy costumes, trick-or-treating, candy corn and carving pumpkins. But the year's spookiest holiday is also a time to take advantage of nutritious, seasonal foods such as pumpkin.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin A, and a good source of vitamin C. This gourd also contains vitamins K and E, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron. A 3/4-cup serving of pumpkin has no fat, cholesterol or sodium, and just 25 calories.
The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that it's loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene. As studies have shown, a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and may also protect against heart disease.
Don't forget about those pumpkin seeds either. The seeds are a rich source of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc. They're also an excellent source of B vitamins and a good supplier of vitamin K.
Here are some ideas on how you can add pumpkin to recipes.
Pumpkin puree can be added to baked goods, smoothies, chilies, stews and dips. Two cups of homemade pumpkin puree equals one can of pumpkin. To make your own pumpkin puree, start by cutting your pumpkin down the middle. Scoop out the seeds and guts, and set aside for later. Place your pumpkin cut-side down in a baking dish with about 1 cup of water. Bake the pumpkin for about 90 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Next, scoop out the flesh and puree it in a food processor.
You can use the pumpkin flesh in much the same way as you would use carrots or other root vegetables. Roasting brings out a depth of flavor. Add the roasted pumpkin to soups or salads, or season it with spices and eat it by itself.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
After you scoop out the seeds and guts, separate the seeds from the guts and rinse thoroughly. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the seeds in a single layer on an oiled (olive oil) baking sheet. Stir the seeds to coat them with the olive oil. Bake the seeds for about 30 to 45 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Try sprinkling the seeds with salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, or cinnamon and sugar. Roasted pumpkin seeds can make an excellent topping for salads and can be added to baked goods. Also try mixing them in a trail mix for a healthy snack.