Try pumpkin in your diet for many health benefits
Pumpkin season is in full force. Most people are looking forward to that traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, but why wait? Pumpkin has so many health benefits that you may want to make it a staple in your diet.
According to Erin Wiedmar, clinical nutritionist with Norton Healthcare’s employee wellness program, pumpkin is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A by the body.
“That vitamin A can help your body fight infections and viruses, as well as promote eye health,” Wiedmar said. “Beta-carotene also is thought to play a part in reducing the risk of prostate, colon and lung cancers.”
High-potassium foods like pumpkin can be good for your heart, too. Potassium has been shown to help lower blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of stroke.
Need more fiber in your diet? Pumpkins can help with that as well. One cup of raw pumpkin has a whopping 6 grams of fiber. Depending on which canned pumpkin you choose, 1 cup has up to 7 grams.
“That fiber can help with digestion and bowel movements,” Wiedmar said. “This fiber also slows sugar absorption into the blood, which is good for those with diabetes. Fiber also makes you feel fuller, which can help with overeating and weight gain.”
Canned vs. fresh
The bottom line: It’s about convenience. It’s certainly less expensive and faster to purchase a can of pumpkin puree. Using fresh will give you a different flavor and possibly moisture content. At the end of the day, it’s all about preference.
If you open a can of pumpkin and don’t use it all, what do you do with the leftover? You can store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or, freeze it in individual portions. For best flavor, use frozen pumpkin within three months.
Ways to use pumpkin
Pumpkin is a great option for incorporating into baked goods such as muffins and breads. It even can be used as a substitute for butter. If your recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use ¾ cup pumpkin.
Also try these ideas:
- Stir a few tablespoons of pumpkin into your morning oatmeal along with some pumpkin pie spice.
- Add ½ cup to your favorite hummus.
- Stir ½ to 1 cup into polenta at the end of cooking, depending how strong you like the flavor.
- Cut up fresh pumpkin, sprinkle with cinnamon and lightly spray with olive oil. Roast in the oven and enjoy. Follow this recipe for easy roasting guidelines.
- Add peeled and cut fresh pumpkin to your chili, especially if using black beans.
- Try pumpkin chowder or pumpkin stone soup.
- Incorporate into breakfast cookies.
- Add ½ to 1 cup to your pancake or waffle recipe.