Fit to Swim: Pumpkin is a Healthy Treat

Enjoy the health benefits of pumpkins just like our forefathers before us.  Native American Indians used pumpkin as a healthy staple in their diets for centuries before the pilgrims landed.  Pumpkins continued to be an important crop for the pilgrims because they stored well and provided a nutritious food source during the winter months.

Pumpkins Contain Carotenoids Important for Immune Function

  • Pumpkins and related squashes are good sources of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants belonging to a group of pigments called carotenoids.
  • Carotenoids defend the body’s tissues against oxidative damage, helping to prevent chronic diseases and premature aging.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only known carotenoids located in the human retina. They help protect the eye from damage and improve several aspects of visual performance.

healthy-pumpkinPumpkin is a Versatile Food

Pumpkin makes a great pie but, don’t stop there.  Pumpkin puree can be stirred into soups, stews or chilis.  You can whip up a pumpkin smoothie by blending pumpkin puree with a banana, spinach or romaine lettuce, a few dates, some non-diary milk and cinnamon and nutmeg.  I recommend cooking your own pumpkin puree or using the puree packed in non-BPA containing cartons.

Easy Pumpkin Puree

Tip: Choose the lighter colored “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins,” they are sweeter and less watery than the orange jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.

  • Cut the top from the pumpkin and scrape out the stringy membranes and seeds.
  • Cut the pumpkin into large pieces and place in a roasting pan.
  • Pour ½ cup water into the bottom of the pan and cover with foil.
  • Bake 45-60 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and easily pierced with a fork.
  • Scrape the soft pulp from the skin into a food processor or blender and puree.
  • Leftover pumpkin puree may be frozen in an airtight container for up to 12 months.

Pumpkin Seeds are Super Foods

When preparing pumpkin puree or carving a Jack-o’-lantern, don’t throw away the seeds.  Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are not only flavorful, they are a super food.  Pumpkin seeds are a good source of:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Phytochemicals
  • Zinc, calcium and iron

To Roast Pumpkin Seeds

  • Rinse seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings.
  • Place seeds in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet and, if desired, sprinkle with your choice of no-salt seasonings.
  • Bake at 225 degrees F. until lightly toasted, about 45 minutes, checking and stirring frequently.

Sprinkle on salads, mix into healthy baked recipes or use as a topping for soups and entrees.

Enjoy the delicious flavors and health benefits of fresh pumpkins, pumpkin seeds and other winter squashes, and ignore those SAD (Standard American Diet) pumpkin-flavored fake foods.

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