The Benefits of Pumpkin

kids with pumpkinsIt’s time to make pumpkin a thing! Step aside pumpkin spice, we’re talking about real pumpkin! Save those large Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins for the front porch; they’re stringy and don’t have much flavor. The best kinds of pumpkin to eat are sugar pumpkins, also known as pie pumpkins or sweet pumpkins. Sugar pumpkins are much smaller than decorating pumpkins (about 3 to 6 pounds in weight) and are sweeter and less fibrous. Cooked pumpkin is a great source of fiber, heart-healthy potassium and magnesium, and Vitamins A, E, and K for growth.

pumpkin puree vs pumpkin pie mixWhen shopping for canned pumpkin, look for “100% pure pumpkin.” “Canned pumpkin pie mix” contains 2.5x times the amount of calories, 3x the amount of carbohydrates due to added sugars, and less fiber and potassium compared to the pure product.

Save the Seeds!

When cooking or carving fresh pumpkin, remember to save the seeds! Incorporating pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, into meals and snacks is a great way to vary protein sources. Just one ounce of hulled (shells removed) pumpkin seeds contains 9 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat.

To roast fresh pumpkin seeds:

  1. Use a large spoon or ladle to scoop out all pumpkin seeds.
  2. Rinse seeds in a colander under cold water to remove pulp and strings.
  3. Pat seeds dry.
  4. Coat with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, depending on how many seeds there are. Season with your favorite seasonings: garlic powder and black pepper, chili powder, or cayenne powder for a kick.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°F for ~45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  6. For extra crispy seeds, increase oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 5 minutes. The seeds burn easily, so make sure to keep an eye on them!

Try these pumpkin recipes:

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