If you thought that pumpkin is only for flavoring sweet treats and coffee in the fall, think again.
With all the hype around pumpkin spice lattes this time of year, we often forget that pumpkin is a nutritious vegetable!
In fact, with more vitamin A per cup than kale and more fiber per cup of quinoa, pumpkin can add a healthy dose of nutrition to your diet all year long. Because of its creamy, rich texture, pumpkin puree is the perfect addition to soups, smoothies, yogurt bowls and more.
We can thank pumpkin’s rich beta-carotene content for its bright orange hue.
Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A in the body, which is known for supporting vision, especially at night. Vitamin A can be found in extremely high amounts in orange vegetables like pumpkin, making them great for extra peeper protection!
Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are also a powerhouse of nutrients including fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and iron. Coming in at less than 50 calories per cup, this winter squash can be used in ways that are often overlooked including using it as pasta sauce, swapping it for butter in baked goods, and adding cubed pumpkin to your favorite salads and casseroles. Here are a few ideas to add more pumpkin in your life:
One cup of canned pumpkin pureé has 7 grams of fiber. Stir it into oatmeal, yogurt bowls, or make a pasta sauce out if it. It will keep your you fuller longer, and keep your digestion running smoothly.
Once your jack-o-lantern has been carved, be sure to save your pumpkin seeds! These little seeds are a source of key nutrients including magnesium, zinc, protein, and fiber. The high magnesium content of pumpkin seeds makes them a great snack after a workout on a chilly fall day. The body needs magnesium for muscle relaxation and healthy blood flow.
3. Mood Booster
If the changing of the seasons has you feeling blue, snack on pumpkin seeds. They contain the amino acid tryptophan — the same one found in turkey — which aids in serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical known to boost your mood and produce an overall good feeling in the brain and body.
A serving of unshelled, roasted pumpkin seeds — approximately 2 tablespoons — contain 5 grams of protein, making them a great option for vegetarians and vegans. Sprinkle on top of soups and salads for an added crunch. The green variety, called pepitas, come from certain varieties of pumpkins. You can find pepitas year-round in your grocery store’s bulk section.
5. Planning to scoop out the insides of a pumpkin? Remember to keep the seeds!
You can put pumpkin seeds on just about everything, but did you also know you can make your own pumpkin seed milk? Reap the nutritional benefits from this protein packed beverage, and get more magnesium, zinc and iron into your diet from the milk of pumpkin seeds. It’s easy, and fun to make at home, only requiring a few simple tools and a nut milk bag!
Pumpkin seed milk also comes in at 9 grams of protein per cup, which is more than your typical non-dairy milk. So this fall, why not make your own pumpkin SEED latte, using pumpkin seed milk, coffee, and a dash of pumpkin pie spice! Here’s your how-to for making pumpkin seed milk at home!
- 1 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- 2 cups water
- Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2-3 pitted dates (optional) (for an extra smooth, slightly sweet taste)
- 1 nut milk bag
In a medium sized glass bowl soak pepitas in water with salt overnight. The next day, blend seeds and water in a high-speed blender like a Vitamix, until smooth. Add vanilla. Add dates if desired.
Using milk bag, strain contents of blender through bag, squeezing it through, and pouring little by little as you continue to strain through. Squeeze out as much as you can, and refrigerate in a glass jar for up to one week. Add to coffee, smoothies, other recipes and more!
HEADER IMAGE: YULIA CHINATO // IMAGE: MAGGIE MICHALCZYK
Maggie Michalczyk, RDN is a Chicago-based Registered Dietitian with a passion for all things pumpkin spiced, seasoned, flavored, and shaped. From sweet to savory, Maggie works with food brands locally and nationally to show us how her favorite vegetables goes way beyond just the fall. For all things pumpkin, learn more at Once Upon A Pumpkin.