Get Your Fill of Pumpkin

Who doesn’t love a piping hot pumpkin pie after a big Thanksgiving meal? Even better is a cold slice for breakfast the next morning (if there is any left over, that is). I wish I could tell you that this desert is incredibly nutritious and that you can eat it as much as you want, but that buttery crust full of refined sugars is never going to be a healthy choice. However, that comforting, delicious filling is a wonderful source of nutrients and fiber! And isn’t that the best part of the pie anyway?

Whether you roast your own little sweet pumpkin or reach for unsweetened canned version, the filling is a surprisingly healthy and tasty addition to your diet during the holidays and all year. The flesh of this festive squash supports your body by supplying many vital nutrients:

  1. Vitamin A: pumpkins are supercharged with this essential vitamin that keeps your eyesight sharp and your immune system on point
  2. Beta-Carotene: this orange anti-oxidant helps fight aging and possibly cancer
  3. Potassium: pumpkins have more potassium than bananas, which is good news for tired muscles
  4. Plant Sterols & High Fiber: natural cholesterol lowering compounds and a high fiber content with few calories can help aid weight loss and blood sugar regulation
  5. Vitamin C: immune support right in the middle of flu season

Spice up your pumpkin for even more flavor and health benefits. Traditional pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves. For more information on the health benefits of cinnamon and ginger, see my previous post on spices. For this Thanksgiving and beyond, dress up your spiced pumpkin puree in new ways to get all the benefits without wrapping it in a package of empty calories. Here are some tasty ideas for incorporating pumpkin into your diet:

  1. Pumpkin Ice Cream: Combine 4 to 6 frozen ripe bananas with ½ cup puree in a blender. Add pumpkin spice. Add natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup to taste. Eat immediately or freeze for later.
  2. Pumpkin Cookies: check out this easy-peasy recipe from Plaid and Paleo: Protein-Rich, No-Bake Cookies
  3. Pumpkin Smoothie: add puree and pumpkin spice to your favorite smoothie ingredients (i.e. banana, almond butter, flax seeds, coconut milk, etc.)
  4. Pumpkin Oatmeal: just fold some puree and spices into your morning oatmeal for a delicious boost to an already healthy breakfast
  5. P-Spice Latte: adding puree and spices to coffee along with a milk of your choice (whole fat milk or unsweetened nondairy is best) and a small amount of natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey

And don’t forget about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are also nutrient dense treats to add to salads, cereals, smoothies, or just on their own. They are quite versatile and can be consumed in different ways. If you are roasting your own little pumpkin for the flesh to make a puree, don’t throw those seeds away. Roast them and save them. If you are stocking up on the unsweetened canned variety, then stop by the bulk food section and get some roasted pumpkin seeds. Since the seeds are packed with fiber and protein, they can help make you feel full and satisfied on very few calories. And adding these little dietary powerhouses to your diet is a simple, savory way of adding these nutrients:

  1. Vitamin K
  2. Phosphorus
  3. Manganese
  4. Magnesium
  5. Zinc
  6. Copper
  7. Iron
  8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  9. Antioxidants
  10. Potassium
  11. Vitamin B2
  12. Folate

So, let’s give thanks for the mighty pumpkin and all it offers. Have fun searching for healthy recipes — the internet is brimming with them this time of year and the possibilities are endless. Pumpkin chili, curry and butter; have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Just watch the intake of refined sugars and white flours to get the best of what this seasonal fruit has to offer. Enjoy!

This information and more is available to patients in the Functional Nutrition Program overseen by Austin Preferred’s Holistic Medical Provider. Contact us at (512) 442-2727 if you’re interested in scheduling a consultation.

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