Fresh pumpkin and canned pumpkin are quintessential in preparing the holiday menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Versatile and packed with nutrients, the many delicious uses for pumpkin may surprise you. Read on for a holiday-perfect array of healthy recipe ideas featuring pumpkin.
Fresh or canned pumpkin is a perfect holiday food
Autumn is here and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's the perfect time to start cooking with pumpkin. You can begin with that cute sugar pumpkin you have left over from Halloween: you know, the one you had every intention of carving into a miniature jack-o-lantern, but didn't have time to?
According to Marissa Lippert, a registered dietician with Nourish
, fresh pumpkin has a shelf life of almost six months if uncut and kept in a cool place, so you'll have plenty of time make some of the delicious and nutritious recipes you'll find here. Though the pumpkin harvest occurs in fall and early winter, pumpkin is a great fruit – yes, fruit – to eat during the holidays but can easily be incorporated into your diet year-round.
Pumpkin is packed with nutrition
Pumpkin is a type of winter squash that is crammed with wonderful nutrients like beta-carotene, a type of antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in your body and is believed to protect against cancer and heart disease. It is also rich in antioxidants lutein and ziazanthin (which promote eye health), dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E, potassium, iron and magnesium. As a bonus, pumpkin seeds contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats and may help lower cholesterol level, says Lippert.
Canned pumpkin offers nutrition as well as convenience. Canned pumpkin actually packs in up to three times the amount of beta-carotene found in fresh pumpkin because of its low water content. Lippert says that "one cup of canned pumpkin packs just 50 calories and boasts three grams of fiber."
Pumpkin is deliciously versatile
Lippert recommends cutting fresh pumpkin into cubes, brushing them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in the oven as a side dish or an addition to a seasonal salad.
Though pumpkin is ideal for fall feasts, it is a lot more versatile than most people think. You can use pumpkin in some savory dishes instead of cream, substitute it for applesauce or sour cream in cakes, and use it in place of some of the milk or cream in bread pudding. Pumpkin can also be substituted for butter in baked goods, such as brownies, says Tracey Seaman, the test kitchen director for Every Day with Rachael Ray
Recipes that incorporate pumpkin seeds are "great because they're rich in zinc, which is known to prevent colds and shorten their duration because of its ability to boost your immune system and white blood cell count," says Monica Reinagel, LDN, CNS, NutritionData.com's
Lippert agrees, and recommends snacking on Bear Naked's all-natural High Sierra Trail Mix, a minimally-processed blend ingredients like organic pumpkin seeds, chocolate and dried cranberries, or Kashi's TLC Crunchy Granola bars in Pumpkin Spice Flax flavor, which are baked with whole flaxseeds, roasted pumpkin seeds and a blend of yummy spices.
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