The Healthy Perks of Pumpkin

If you have never thought about pumpkin beyond your jack-o-lantern or Thanksgiving pie, you are missing out on a great ingredient that brings more nutrition to the party than you’d think. Cooked pumpkin has a number of great culinary uses in more than just pie. It is surprisingly versatile, and easy to use.

Although most people buy pumpkin canned, it’s very easy to cook your own from a fresh pumpkin. Pumpkins are a fall crop, but cooked pumpkin puree freezes wonderfully to be used any time you need it. Canned pumpkin is a quicker option, however, and still offers all the nutritional benefits, so don’t skip pumpkin just because you don’t have time to cook and puree it!

The Nutrition in Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an incredibly good source of Vitamin A, and also provides Vitamins C and E as well as many B vitamins including folate. It also offers calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

Low in fat and cholesterol, pumpkin adds a lot of nutrition for very few calories, making it a great food for those looking to fill up on a calorie-restricted diet.

How to Cook with Pumpkin

Look beyond your pumpkin pie; cookies, muffins, quick breads and scones are all a great place to use pumpkin. You will turn a sweet treat into something with a much bigger nutritional value simply by adding pumpkin to the batter. Baked goods involving pumpkin are often less sweet than other choices because pumpkin pairs so well with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, which add a lot of taste without a lot of calories.

That’s not all you can do with pumpkin, though! Make a delicious pumpkin soup or stew, or add pumpkin to chili – it will work great with the spices and adds creaminess and a distinct flavor. Add pumpkin to pasta sauces and use it to top noodles or layer in a lasagna. It makes a great addition to vegetarian lasagnas, adding flavor and texture without meat.

Pumpkin is also perfect in risotto and other creamy dishes; a smooth pumpkin puree gives substance and thickens a sauce. It brings a nutritional boost to dishes not always known for being healthy!

Although any pumpkin will do for cooking, there are certain pumpkins you should look for depending on what you are planning to make. Pie pumpkins are the best choice for pumpkin pie of course, but also better for baked goods due to a smoother texture and slightly sweeter taste. Most supermarkets will have them, as well as farmer’s markets. They are smaller than the pumpkins used for carving jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin is great at breakfast too! Try pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin oatmeal. With the right spices, you will think you are eating pumpkin pie for breakfast – and so will your kids!

Pumpkin doesn’t always have to be pureed. You can use chunks of pumpkin in much the same way you might use other types of squash. Roast it and mix it with other vegetables, or add it to a skewer with meat heading to the grill.

With its bright orange color, distinct flavor, and versatility, pumpkin can liven up many dishes and also add a great dose of vitamins and minerals. Keep some on hand in the freezer so you will have it available whenever inspiration strikes! Take pumpkin beyond Halloween and Thanksgiving for a great tasting, nutrition packed option that is perfect any time of the year.

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